Something's Strange: Education in Japan (2) Bullying by Teachers Doesn't Exist? - Director's Blog



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Something's Strange: Education in Japan (2) Bullying by Teachers Doesn't Exist?


I am a member of an independent or third-party committee on the subject of bullying at school for a local government body.

Bullying at school is mainly handled by teachers and the Board of Education, but when bullying occurs at school, a certain mentality takes over that seeks to keep such incidents from becoming known to the outside. It attempts to solve the problem from within, leaving the solution up to only the school and those associated with the Board of Education.

In the local government body where I now serve on a third-party committee, the head of the local government decided that the third-party committee should be formed with pediatricians like me, clinical psychologists, and other specialists, to conduct surveys, when necessary, on incidents of bullying from an impartial viewpoint.

Nevertheless, since the formation of the committee, there has not been a single case of bullying that has called for our examination, and at the regular annual conference, most of the work concerned receiving reports on incidents of bullying that had been resolved by teachers or Board of Education.

However, the situation at a past meeting I attended was a bit different. One of the committee members noticed a case on the internet of reported bullying of a student by a teacher that had occurred at a public school in the district. As the third-party committee, we had not received a report, so we inquired about this and the reason to the local government official in charge. We were informed of a civil court case in which a teacher had been accused of sexually harassing a student. The case is now pending, and it was explained that it had not yet been established that such an act had, in fact, occurred. However, the committee members all agreed that this was precisely the sort of case that a third-party committee should consider.

Furthermore, the committee also began a discussion about whether sexual harassment constituted bullying. Internet searches will show such terms as "bullying at work, sexual harassment, and power harassment" and the committee members all agreed that sexual harassment could be considered a form of bullying.

In this discussion, those of us on the third-party committee were most startled by a comment from the person in charge: "At the Board of Education, the concept of bullying by a teacher does not exist." In this case, we did not know whether bullying by the teacher had in fact occurred, but this was the response to our proposal that if bullying, etc., by a teacher does occur in the future, we on the third-party committee would also like to be notified and, if necessary, be allowed to examine the incident.

A committee member then asked: What would such actions (sexual harassment, the bullying of students, etc.) by a teacher be called? The answer given was "inappropriate educational conduct by a teacher." Bullying at school appears to refer only to bullying between students. In other words, the concept of a teacher bullying a student does not exist.

Just what is this?
Are you satisfied with such an explanation?

sakakihara_2013.jpg Yoichi Sakakihara
M.D., Ph.D., Professor Emeritus, Ochanomizu University; Director of Child Research Net, Executive Advisor of Benesse Educational Research and Development Institute (BERD), President of Japanese Society of Child Science. Specializes in pediatric neurology, developmental neurology, in particular, treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Asperger's syndrome and other developmental disorders, and neuroscience. Born in 1951. Graduated from the Faculty of Medicine, the University of Tokyo in 1976 and taught as an instructor in the Department of the Pediatrics before working with Ochanomizu University.