In Bullying Around the World

Bullying in Singapore: Between the Classroom and the Office

bullying in singapore

 Bullying is defined by a repetitive harmful behavior that targets a particular person with the intention of intimidating them or causing physical or psychological damage. The act can be performed by a single person or a group, and in school campus, online, or even in the workplace. There are many media that bullies abuse to get to their victims. And the problem is a worldwide recognized issue. In the following article, we will specifically learn of bullying in Singapore: a phenomenon prevalent as in most countries. We will attempt to focus on culturally specific aspects of bullying and the factors contributing to the problem and its solutions. 

Why Bullying in Singapore Happens?

It’s difficult to trace back the causes of bullying in Singapore because they can be different, unrelated, and dependent on individual cases. However, often the environment of the school encourages or embraces behaviors that later breed bullying. For example, top schools foster an environment so competitive that it’s normal for children to feel frustrated and jealous of their academically superior classmates. Such schools expect children to overachieve and remain on top of their class. And since it’s not rational or possible that all students can simultaneously be at the top of the class, jealousy, envy, and violence can be expected. Students may resort to bullying to even out the scales, retaliate when another student seems to do better than them, or bring someone down and humiliate them to feel better about themselves.

Types of Bullying in Singapore

According to surveys on bullying in Singapore secondary and primary schools, 1 in every 4 secondary students and one in every 5 primary students have reported being bullied.  As usual, the types of bullying are variant and not the same techniques are followed among different genders and age groups.

Verbal Bullying

Among all types of bullying, verbal bullying in Singapore was the most prevalent. This finding can easily be explained. Most teachers, parents, and school officials tend to dismiss incidents of verbal bullying as something less serious and not worthy of concern. In both the secondary and primary schools in the surveys, children were called names and were vulgarly attacked with hurtful language. A culture that ignores emotional damage because it simply causes no physical scars is very dangerous, since children are often much more psychologically bruised by persistent humiliation and belittling than a punch in the face.

Cyber Bullying

Despite the media attention cyber bullying seems to receive, it is apparently the least prevalent type of bullying in Singapore according to the aforementioned surveys. However, this finding is contradicted by a Microsoft-conducted survey that revealed 58% of children aged 7-18 in Singapore have been bullied online. According to this survey, Singapore is the second highest rate of cyber bullying in the world (compared to the 25 other countries surveyed). Children, boys and girls in mostly equal measures, are well aware of the problem and are genuinely concerned by it.

Want to learn more? Read on cases of cyber bullying in Singapore and the laws issues to combat it.

Physical Bullying

In the surveyed primary school, less than half of the overall number of victims have reported experiencing physical bullying. That is not to say physical bullying in Singapore is not a significant problem. Next, we will discuss cases of physical violence in schools of Singapore.

Violence in Schools of Singapore

Incidents of violence in schools of Singapore cannot be overlooked. Where teachers and parents seem to be aware of the size of the problem, bullies continue to abuse their victims without the least bit of concern for rules.

  • 10-year-old primary student sprayed, kicked and beaten:
    A primary school child was persistently bullied at school. It started with his belongings stolen, namely his school bag, and escalated to a beating that left the student with bruises and tears. He was followed, called names, intimidated, sprayed with soya sauce, and finally beaten by two older bullies. The issue was resolved by having the bullies apologize to the victim after the mother interfered and notified school officials. The child has no intention of changing schools.
  • Shuqun Secondary School
     A video has gone viral showing a student wearing the Shuqun School t-shirt uniform and repeatedly hitting and slapping other students in his class. The bully first hits the head and face of his classmate, then he goes on to hit his head with a book several times. The same is done to another classmate while another student is dancing over a table in the background. The video shows no trace of teachers being present. After the video has raised concerns, the school reported investigating the issue, and that there was actually an adjunct teacher in the classroom who has apparently done nothing to stop the bullying. The school later reports that the bully deeply regrets his actions and that the present teacher has been “spoken to.”

There are many other incidents of extreme forms of physical bullying in Singapore. Check here for more stories!

Workplace Bullying in Singapore

Bullying in Singapore is not exclusive to the classrooms. And though the nature of bullying in the workplace can significantly differ from that in schools, it does remain a grave social problem, both to identify and to combat. The line can be blurry between a strict boss and a bullying boss, and, between adults in a professional environment, it can be challenging to put your hands on an abusive behavior, let alone have the motivation to report it or do anything about it.

In May, a video surfaced on the Internet of a 29-year-old Singaporean intern being slapped on the face by his boss. Now there’s no argument as to whether this constitutes bullying or not. Being physically ambushed by your boss or work colleague cannot be excused. But the bullying turned out to be even worse. The intern has been working for years in this company, receiving no contract or work benefits, and having to work late nights for no financial reward.

In that sense workplace bullying can be as emotionally damaging as school bullying: you waste years of your life, time and effort that you could have used to establish a career and reach for your dream job, but instead these years are spent in a stressful environment where your efforts are unappreciated and your skills not properly valued. According to a a 2012 online survey conducted by JobsCentral, 24% of Singaporean employees have been victims of workplace bullying. That is almost quarter the number of all participants, and it is indeed a horrifying percentage.

In cases of workplace bullying in Singapore, the typical “boys will be boys” cannot apply. Incidents of sexual harassment, intimidation, blackmail, and physical abuse take place between adults and cannot be overlooked. Over 50% of 500 male and female Singaporean employees have reported being sexually harassed in the workplace according to a survey by the Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware); 30% of said percentage report the harassment being repeated more than once.

Whether it’s in the classroom or in the office, the victim is forced to spend more than half of their day in direct contact with their bully. Such predicament can leave deep emotional scars that will not heal easily. National organizations including Singapore Children’s Society and the Coalition Against Bullying are working in collaboration with schools to hopefully put an end to the issue and nip the bullying behavior in the bud.

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