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Talk-O-boTics programme aims to educate DAS professionals in the area of social and emotional support. The program is influenced by the elements of Counselling, Psychology and Psychotherapy.

The program aims to help staff and students in the following areas:

  • Improve personal development
  • Develop interpersonal skills
  • Build on decision-making & problem-solving skills
  • Provide support on mental and social-emotional issues

This most important effort is led by Ms Madinah Begum, Educational Advisor and Senior Educational Therapist who has a Master of Counselling from Monash University.

 

The Research Team

A vital area for Talk-O-boTics concerns the area of bullying and victimisation. In order to better understand this, a research team was formed.

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Geetha Shantha Ram

Director for SpLD Assessment Services,
English Language and Literacy Division,
Staff Professional Development & RETA Advisor

Sujatha Nair

Assistant Director (Educational Advisory)
English Language and Literacy Division
& RETA Fellow

Madinah Begum

Educational Advisor, Senior Educational Therapist, Main Literacy Program,
Talk-O-boTics Program & RETA Member

 

The subsequent research was conducted by the members of SpLD, Educational Advisory Team and Talk-O-boTics Team.

School Bullying in Singapore

Bullying prevention is the responsibility of everyone involved in an organization, regardless of who we are or our designation. Numerous individuals have experienced, engaged in, or seen how terrible bullying can be at school. Bullying behaviour begins in early adolescence, and victims are forced to live with the ramifications for the rest of their lives.

Furthermore, bullying is a serious issue in Singapore schools. Bullying is prevalent here at alarmingly high levels. According to statistics on school bullying in Singapore, one out of every five primary school students has been bullied. Moreover, an Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) report confirms that 15-year-olds in Singapore are bullied more than their peers in 50 other nations, implying that Singapore has the world's third-highest bullying rate.

Recent cases in Singapore have shown an increase in Special Educational Needs (SEN) students being bullied. 

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Dyslexic student attempted suicide due to school bullies:

  • Student international success in non-academic arena.
  • Physical, Verbal and Cyber-bullied by peers.
  • Deliberately consumed medication for fear of returning to school to face bullies. 
  • Was hospitalised and has since recovered
  • School dismissed the bullying incidents.
  • Wrote a letter to PM Lee urging him to "improve the way schools and MOE respond to bullying and violence".

 

The Research

As part of a parent advocacy initiative by the Dyslexia Association of Singapore’s (DAS), a survey of DAS parents was conducted in 2020 to find out about the incident rates of bullying that our students faced. The aim was to analyse the prevalence of the various types of bullying experienced by the students, how bullying affects them and the support they received. Through this research, the hope was to find out how bullying rates could be mitigated among SEN students. Ultimately, the goal is to empower both teachers and parents by providing meaningful knowledge on how they can support students to minimise bullying. 

The general objective of the research was to find out the type and duration of bullying most commonly faced by DAS students, the impact of victimization, the intervention and support received and the actions to be taken moving forward.

Hypothesis: Hence, it was hypothesized that SEN students are vulnerable to bullying and support given to them is insufficient. 

Methodology

Participants
In this study, 185 parents of students studying at DAS were recruited through convenience sampling. They were given online questionnaires, which consisted of qualitative and quantitative questions that sought to find out about their children's prior experiences with bullying. 

Data Collection

Quantitative Data
The quantitative questions focused on how often children experienced various types of bullying. The types of bullying that were given consisted of physical, verbal, indirect, cyber, peer, teacher and off-campus bullying. The questions were presented in the form of a 6-point Likert scale, ranging from “Always” to “Unsure”. 

Qualitative data
Upon answering the questions about experiences regarding different types of bullying, parents have to answer different sets of qualitative questions depending on whether their child has ever experienced bullying as illustrated in the table below. 

Child experienced Bullying Child did not experience Bullying
Questions on:
  • The bullying incidents
  • How the parent and child handled the bullying
  • How they think the issue of bullying can be resolved or improved upon
Questions on
  • Parents’ opinions toward bullying 
  • What can be done to minimise bullying


The data was examined in relation to gender and age. 5 key findings were found during the analysis of the data.

  1. 70.3% of the respondents indicated that their child faced bullying in schools. This is a good indicator that SEN students are vulnerable to bullying in schools.

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  2. The survey presented 7 types of bullying – Physical, Verbal, Indirect, Cyber, Peer, Teacher and Bullied outside of school. Out of which the top 3 types of Bullying by verbal, indirect and peer victimization.

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    This is in line with most studies that illustrate that verbal bullying is the most common form of bullying that most children experience at school. On average, 77% of all children are being verbally bullied in some way.

  3. 26% of the parents whose child was bullied, reported that bullying lasted for years. 16% of the bullying happens more than twice. This indicates that SEN students are bullied for prolonged periods of time and it could be due to the students being already vulnerable. They have low self-esteem and think the bullying is their fault due to their learning disability or they may be unaware that they are being bullied due to the nature of their impairment.

  4. 13% of respondents whose child was bullied, indicated that no action was taken by schools despite the bullying incidents being reported. In these types of cases, some parents specifically mentioned how the school sometimes refuses to acknowledge that bullying had taken place. This shows that schools have to adopt more stringent approaches to acknowledge and intervene with bullying cases.

  5. Only 11% of the respondents indicated their child was cyberbullied. This is in contrast with the 2020 global Cyberbullying facts and statistics indicating that 60% of parents with children aged 14 to 18 reported them being bullied both at school and online. The statistics are possibly low due to teenagers not being willing to open up to parents and share their problems as compared to children aged 9-11 years old.

  6. With regards to the different types of support that their child had received, 58% of parents whose child was bullied, mentioned that familial support had helped their child cope with the incident and 25% indicated that schools have helped their child. This is concerning as school support should play a vital role in helping bullying victims recover. Data from the study also shows that students who coped well tend to receive more support from their family, schools, peers and mental health professionals, further illustrating the importance of having different types of support.

  7. When asked whether enough was being done to mitigate bullying, 70% of parents disagreed and mentioned that more could be done. They talked about the need for more training and education within schools, the importance of raising more awareness about bullying, as well as the need for more parental support for bully victims.

  8. Within the survey, about 35% of parents had answered “Unsure” about the types of bullying that their child was facing at least once. This emphasises how parents are not fully aware of their child’s bullying experience. This shows that more could be done to raise awareness for parents to better understand bullying.

 

Limitations

  • The survey only managed to get a response from 5% of the population. It would have been ideal to get a larger pool to have a better and more accurate representation.
  • The survey respondents are parents and they might not be fully aware of the impact of the bullying their children are facing.
  • Some of the findings may not be completely accurate as some parents did not understand the questions and failed to answer appropriately.
  • The survey was done after the circuit breaker ended, hence there may not have been as many bullying incidents as before.

 

DAS to Take Action

Based on the results and conclusions from the research, DAS felt it was imperative to take action on our part to help our students and parents by providing support in various platforms as stated below:

  Sessions Articles Agencies Study
Action by
  • Parent Support Group
  • Register of Educational Therapists Asia
  • DAS student Alumni
  • DAS Academy 
  • DAS
  • School
  • Community agencies
  • DAS follow-up study with students
Actions
  • 4x bully management sharing sessions
  • 4 x bully management workshops
  • 4 x bully management bullying articles
  • Working with other community agencies to better understand support
  • Better and accurate understanding of their experiences with Bullying

 

DAS to Take Action – with Ministry of Education of Singapore (A Proposal)

  Focus Group Study
Action by
  • SDR
  • Teachers
  • AEDs
  • Parents

MOE 

(Students, teachers)

Action Joint focus group sessions with the above-mentioned groups Joint-study with MOE

 

Madinah Begum
Senior Educational Therapist / Educational Advisor
Main Literacy Programme, Talk-O-boTics Programme, DAS

Learn more about Madinah!