- Independent group MWYO wants to raise awareness of issue in city
- It says lack of legislation means bullying is under-reported by schools
A think tank founded by the vice-chairman of the city's youth development commission has proposed the implementation of an anti-bullying law in Hong Kong, to raise awareness of the problem in the city and to better track such cases in schools.
MWYO, an independent group set up by Lau Ming-wai, which focuses on youth issues, called for the government to set up a working group to look into matters relating to bullying and coordinate the data collection, which the city lacked.
Lau is the deputy chairman of the commission and a former chairman of the now defunct Commission on Youth.
In a recently released report, the group noted the lack of specific legislation on bullying or cyberbullying in Hong Kong had led to poor awareness and under-reporting in schools.
"The government has provided a lot of guidelines and resource packages for schools on how to handle bullying, but there is no legal obligation or responsibility for schools to set up these programmes and handling procedures due to the school-based management system in Hong Kong," said Fred Ng Cheuk-yin, a senior researcher at MWYO.
Ng was referring to a management framework that has been implemented in local public schools run by operators other than the government since 2005, which allows greater autonomy and flexibility.
Moreover, current guidelines do not force schools to report cases of bullying.
In the long-term, Ng said Hong Kong should implement an anti-bullying law, present in many developed countries such as South Korea and Finland, and some US states.
Such a law would include obligations for stakeholders, such as teachers, social workers and parents to follow up and report cases of bullying, with liability on instances of neglect.
Ng added legislation should also provide for an independent investigation body for victims, bullies, bystanders or even parents to lodge complaints to if they deemed schools were not handling a case well.
In the short-term, he urged the government to set up a working group to review the current situation and collate better data.
He said such a group could copy the United States and Norway and gather information through a questionnaire for students on the bullying they had witnessed or experienced, which would offer a different perspective from what schools say.
Ng said it would be ideal for the group to include all stakeholders, such as schools, teachers, students, parents and scholars familiar with the matter.
Sometimes, society does not understand that the consequences of bullying can be seriousMWYO senior researcher Fred Ng
It could also be handled by the Education Commission, which is a non-statutory body that advises the government on education matters.
"Sometimes, society does not understand that the consequences of bullying can be serious," Ng said. "Some parents and teachers who were bullied might think it is just a small matter and that the students are just playing."
Hong Kong was ranked first among 53 countries and territories in terms of the percentage of children who reported being bullied at least a few times a month in a 2015 study by the Programme for International Student Assessment, a three-yearly test of 15-year-olds worldwide.
In January, eight students from Yan Chai Hospital Tung Chi Ying Memorial Secondary School in Ma On Shan, aged 17 to 19, were arrested after a video emerged of a pupil being stripped and assaulted.
Separately, the Federation for Education Workers released a survey last week on bullying in kindergartens, and primary and secondary schools, with 82 per cent of teachers saying they had dealt with an incident of bullying in the past six months.
The poll, which was conducted last month and received 250 responses, also found that close to half of respondents said some students who were bullied did not want teachers to interfere.
The federation called on the government to strengthen moral and life education, and set up a hotline for students being bullied to seek help.
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