The latest Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) 2018 Australian Report, released last week, shows that Australia’s education sector continues to be plagued by a number of ongoing issues.
Compared to other countries, Australia is also faring worse.
The TALIS report found that cases of intimidation or bullying among students are higher in Australia with 37% of Australian principals reporting that such incidents happen at least weekly, compared to the OECD avareage-30 of 14%, or the TALIS average – 47 average of 13%.
Australia’s bullying figures are also higher when compared to high-performing PISA countries – Alberta (Canada), Estonia, Finland, Japan and Singapore.
It’s no different in primary schools, with 21% of Australian primary school principals reporting that it happens in their school at least weekly.
Cyberbullying on the trend
The report also took note of the rise in cyberbullying, which was found to be more prevalent at lower secondary school levels. This is the first TALIS report to have measured the incidence of cyberbullying.
Some 11% of principals in secondary schools reported cases of stuents posting hurtful information on the internet while some 16% reported that there has been unwanted electronic communication among students at least weekly.
Cases of cyberbullying in primary schools are tamer, however, with 1% and 3% of primary school principals saying that their students have been posting hurtful information on the internet and engaging in unwanted electronic communication at least weekly, respectively.
“On average in Australia, the amount of classroom time spent on teaching and learning increased slightly for Australia as a whole over the past 10 years, largely due to a decrease in the amount of time spent on classroom management,” the report read.
Why bullying persists
A 2016 study from the University of South Australia found that students who experienced bullying and sought for help are less likely to seek help from their teachers, going instead to fellow students or parents.
In an article published in The Conversation, Kenneth Rigby, an adjunct professor at the University of Australia, said students are uncertain about the role of teachers when it comes to cases of bullying for fear that they won’t be taken seriously or they will get a fellow student into trouble.
Professor Rigby further noted that research showing that teachers intervening produces no better outcome compared to cases when a student or parent intervened as they would rely on improperly-implemented anti-bullying policies or use methods which re more harmful than beneficial.
Interventions that could work
One good way to deter bullying from happening is to help students think about the repercussions of bullying to “reach a collective agreement on how to act to ensure that no one is harmed,” Professor Rigby said.
Teachers would also have to improve their relationships with their students so that it would be easier for them to share their personal concerns.
“Teachers almost unanimously told us that the training they have received to address bullying was far from adequate, especially in providing little or no help in how to handle actual cases,” Professor Rigby said.
“But cases of bullying are often far from easy to resolve. They may have their roots in the darker side of human nature and frustrations experienced in the home and in the wider community.”
When it comes to utilising anti-bullying programs, schools should also make an effort in testing what works in their individual context, he said.