Bullying in Chinese context

Professor Dennis Wong of Hong Kong City University is visiting the Learning Environment Centre at UiS this week. Monday he held an open lecture on bullying in Chinese context.

Unni Vere Midthassel, Dennis Wong, Erling Roland and Dian Liu.

Over the last fifteen years, schools in mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong have experienced increasing problems with bullying. Focus on bullying in schools is thus higher than ever, not least because of videos of serious bullying incidents at the school have been posted on social media, and then caught up by the media. In Hong Kong, there has been several cases that have led to bullies being arrested by police for their abusive actions. Wong also drew attention to a case where a student was arrested after he took matters into his own hands and stabbed a fellow student who had bullied him for a long time without the school intervening. The victim was punished, and the bullies went free.

In his presentation, Wong presented findings from empirical studies of bullies' and victims’ characteristics, and he gave examples of types of violations that occur in schools in Greater China.

Wong is an engaged advocate for change in the way bullying is handled in Greater China. This is no easy task in a country with huge number of pupils, where 60 pupils per teacher is the norm. Strong cultural factors also contribute to making the task difficult - Wong highlighted both school culture, parental culture and criminal culture. Bullying in the Chinese school is often seen as a "rite of passage", something you have to go through to become an adult. In such an understanding, bullying is something you just have to endure and find ways to overcome. With such a conception of bullying, it can be difficult for adults to see the seriousness of it. To counteract bullying in the Chinese context, a definition that specifically mentions specific types of offenses that is bullying is need, and it must be emphasized that bullying is something that hurts. This is important because it is necessary to distinguish bullying from what Wong calls "playful games".

A higher awareness of what bullying is, and not least why bullying is not okay, is necessary. An engaged Wong focused on what is needed to reduce bullying in the Chinese school context. A school ethos that allows and encourages bullying, is a problem. Changes are needed at a system level, and it is particularly important to change Chinese teachers' indifference towards bullying, and get them to react in the right way. Here research-based knowledge is the key: Educate the teachers, parents and the bystanders !, is Wongs message.

A first step in the fight against bullying is that schools admit that bullying does occur, and that the schools admit their mistakes in how they handle violations in the school. Schools must take responsibility. Secondly, schools must ensure that teachers have knowledge of bullying and competence to take action in bullying situations - measures that proved to work. Parents also need knowledge. Furthermore, Wong recommends schools to participate in anti-bullying programs. Change takes time, and Wong operates with a 3-year perspective. Whether the  process of change is a success, ultimately depends on the systems _will_ to change.

There are major differences between Norway and China, on many levels. However, in meeting others different from ourselves, we have the opportunity to become better acquainted with ourselves, to reflect on our own practice and gain new perspectives for further research. We are also in a time when our society is increasingly multicultural, a reality that also shows in our schools. Having greater knowledge of other cultures and their challenges, can help schools meet students and their parents with greater understanding. The center looks forward to further collaboration with professor Wong in the future.

Tomorrow, Friday 6 November, Professor Wong will a lecture on "Preventing and tackling school bullying with Restorative Practices", kl. 12.45 to 14.00 in Room P-230, 2nd floor of Hulda Garborgs house.