Over a third of Bhutanese college students who participated in a recent survey reported that they had experienced bullying at some point in their lives. This is a great concern for the nation that promotes Gross National Happiness as their guiding development philosophy. How can the cycle be broken?
By Kezang Sherab, Ugyen Choden and John Howard
Ideally, colleges should be a place of openness, dialogue and tolerance. However, for many students this does not seem to be the case at all. A survey conducted by researchers from the Royal University of Bhutan recently found that over a third of the 2,471 participating college students had experienced bullying – either as the bully or as the victim. Interestingly, students who were enrolled in teacher training programmes were more likely to be victims of all types of bullying, and verbally bullied others. The situation for senior college students appeared to be even more problematic.
The findings of the study, published in the International Journal of Adolescent Medicine and Health, are of high societal relevance and call for interventions to prevent bullying – in Bhutan and beyond. According to the authors, adaptations to college curricula and counselling services for students could help. Furthermore, it should be ensured that those tasked with the training of future teachers serve as positive role models. On that note, it is worth mentioning that although the Bhutanese Ministry of Education banned physical punishment in 2008, it still prevails in schools across the country.
With great power comes great responsibility
Teachers have the means to control, regulate and demean students, as well as to praise, support and encourage them. One day, their students will become responsible for the education, development and wellbeing of other young people. “Good teachers create and maintain a safe learning environment, and demonstrate that they care for their students by assisting in their growth as kind and caring adults”, the researchers say. In their paper, they call for a policy framework to ensure that colleges are safe places, and to establish effective processes for the identification of offenders in academia. The framework should provide college students with the means to reflect on their practice and to work with others on the development of safe spaces.
The WHO’s “health promoting schools” initiative, adopted by a number of European countries as well as Australia, New Zealand, the USA, and Canada, reported mostly positive outcomes. Perhaps, this approach could now be used for the development of “health promoting colleges” in Bhutan and beyond.
Read the original article here: