singapore has third highest bullying rate globally

Fifteen-year-olds here experience more bullying than their peers in 50 other countries and economies, and only the children of Latvia and New Zealand have it worse, said a study by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).


Singapore also had 14.5 per cent of students who described being frequently bullied, compared with the OECD average of 8.9 per cent.

The Straits Times – Yuen Sin

On 6th December 2016, the results of the 2015 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) was published. Over half a million 15-year olds from 72 countries are tested in order to assess the education system. Here are some facts about Singapore that stood out to me:

  • Over a quarter of students are top-performers in mathematics
  • Singapore has the highest science performance
  • Singapore has the third highest rate of frequent bullying

Our education system undoubtedly produces high-scoring students. However, it also produces high bullying rates. It is unrealistic to expect absolutely no bullying, but it definitely should not be this high. Chances are, you know somebody who has been bullied and did not receive appropriate support from the school. The bullies were then left with a slap on the wrist and nothing more. This brings into question the priorities of Singapore’s education system. The government, of course, promises efforts to reduce bullying.


In 2014, in a parliamentary reply titled Zero Tolerance Towards Bullying in Schools, the Ministry of Education (MOE) claims that they “do not tolerate bullying in any form, and schools have in place a system and measures to support a safe, conducive environment for learning (…) schools will take immediate action to investigate and assess all reported cases.”

It sounds like a lot effort is put into preventing bullying, but there are no results. From the very start of life as a student, the focus is on results – students are taught that academic results supersede any other needs they may have. A conducive environment, to teachers, is a quiet one. A good school isn’t one with a healthy environment, but one that produces top scoring students. I have even heard of students bullied by teachers, be it mockery, degradation, or threats.

There are teachers who genuinely care about their students’ wellbeing, and I have had the privilege of meeting some of them. Unfortunately,  the majority of teachers I have encountered see troubled students as a cumbersome part of their job and nothing more. Anything that happens outside the classroom doesn’t matter, as long as there are good results.

I wonder, and worry, about what will become of Singapore’s schools in the future. Will top scoring students be pardoned from bullying? Will bullying simply become “part and parcel” of growing up, or a rite of sorts?




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