Reports of school bullying in Japan rise to record high, education ministry survey shows


The number of reported cases of bullying at Japanese schools hit a record high of over 320,000 in the 2016 academic year due partly to efforts to detect early signs, the education ministry said Thursday.

A total of 323,808 bullying cases were reported at elementary, junior high and high schools, up 43.8 percent from a year before, with the figure for elementary schools jumping 1.5 times. But according to the results of the survey, 90.6 percent of the cases had been resolved and efforts were underway to address another 9.1 percent.

“We must take seriously the increase in the number,” said a ministry official. “But we believe we are moving in a desirable direction to save children as long as we are able to recognize bullying earlier and deal with the situation.”

The education ministry said 400 cases at 374 schools amounted to what it calls “serious situations,” in which children experience significant mental and physical suffering.

Of 244 students who committed suicide, 10 had been bullied.

About 30 percent of schools, meanwhile, said they did not recognize any bullying. The ministry believes there may have been overlooked incidents, given that the number of reported bullying cases per 1,000 students differs among prefectures.

The number of bullying cases at elementary schools stood at 237,921, up 86,229 from a year earlier. The cases showed notable increases involving first to fourth graders at six-year elementary schools.

Among the types of bullying, ridicule and slander accounted for the most at 62.5 percent. Online bullying using computers or mobile phones made up 3.3 percent overall, but amounted to 17.4 percent of bullying seen at high schools.

The number of violent acts at elementary, junior high and senior high schools rose 2,651 to 59,457 cases. The figure for elementary schools hit a record high of 22,847 cases, up 5,769 from a year before.

The education ministry said the outcome may again have been influenced by efforts to more actively recognize bullying from subtle signs, but admitted that some children did seem to lose their temper and behave violently.

Kazuo Takeuchi, an associate professor at the University of Hyogo, said the rise in bullying and violence involving elementary school students warrants attention as it could be related to the changing environment, especially wider use of the internet.

“The types of bullying (seen) are changing from the time when teachers were children. There is a need to make efforts to know what is happening to children in the current era,” he said.

Hitoshi Jin, the head of Childline Support Center Japan, said the surge in the number of bullying indicated by the latest poll reflects the identification of cases overlooked in past reports, but that discovering new cases is a valuable thing. It is hard for schools to grasp the whole situation on their own, given that bullying increasingly takes place on social media, he said.

Families, local communities and private-sector support groups should be more involved to help schools solve problems, and a program is necessary to address the issues in a multi-tiered way, Jin added.