(This article is the first in an Educational Innovation series by Pukhraj Ranjan, which explores global innovations that are helping solve critical issues in K12 education with the hope to spread it to the Indian education landscape and beyond.)
As a girl child growing up in the capital of India and attending an average, middle-income private school, I was bullied for being too tall, too dark, too hairy (body hair) and for having very thick eyebrows.
In an article written in 2017, it was mentioned that 42% of Indian kids were being bullied in school.
It did NOT surprise me.
Also, Indian children aren’t the only ones who face the culture of bullying and negative peer pressure.
Globally, 246 million children and young people experience school violence every year (Plan International, 2017).
A bully is generally defined as someone who uses their superior strength or manipulating skills to force someone to do something. Common synonyms to the verb bully include words like oppress, torment, coerce, nag, harass, intimidate, etc.
The Global Status Report on School Violence and Bullying (UNESCO, 2017) further explains that bullying more often than not, is majorly driven because of a student’s physical appearance, gender, social status, disability, ethnicity, linguistic or cultural preferences and sexual orientation, gender identity or expression.
Furthermore, such harassment and abuse can manifest itself in Physical (physical violence, corporal punishment), Psychological (verbal and emotional abuse, social violence) and Sexual coercion and discrimination with some extreme cases of sexual abuse and rape. A new manifestation that is taking the millennial world by storm is Cyberbullying, where we see that 42% of kids have been bullied while online and 1 in 4 have had it happen more than once. (i-SAFE Foundation)
Why does Bullying happen?
It is quite hard to explain the root cause of the problem as it depends on the individual’s situation, both the bully and the bullied, as well as the context or environment. Experts have diverse opinions where some say it illustrates the power struggle amongst peers while some are of the opinion that it is a reliever for people who have issues with low self-esteem, anger management problems, revenge or jealousy. Often, it is also a way to seek attention and/or maintain popularity. Students like Trisha Prabhu (watch the TEDxTeen Video below) put it as a deficiency amongst adolescents to understand the consequences of one’s actions.
Educators and policymakers in India and globally are planning for a range of things from value education classes and practical social-emotional skills to harsher consequences for the bullies and counselling services for the bullied. Parents want their children supported. Student themselves are asking for systems and structures to prevent bullying, often creating them themselves like the Rethink App, as well as spaces to share and feel heard.
In the field of dismantling the bullying culture, it is not that innovative solutions and practices don’t exist. It is simply that we may not be aware of those who are changing the narrative.
I am always acknowledging and sharing K12 education innovations from around the world through my work at HundrED, and now through these series of articles, that seem to work. I intend to share these global innovations that I feel are innovative, have the potential to spread, scale and impact the Indian education landscape and beyond.
1. MeeTwo (UK)
A unique early intervention solution to adolescent anxiety from the United Kingdom. The MeeTwo app allows young people to post their problems, share solutions, access educational resources and receive expert help anonymously or otherwise. The app is mostly used in the UK but also in US, India and New Zealand with hopes to reach out to more children and communities.
Roots of Empathy is an evidence-based classroom program from Canada for primary school children that decreases aggression and bullying, and increases prosocial behaviours such as caring, sharing and inclusion. At the last count, it has scaled to 11 countries and lives by its motto: Changing the world, child by child.
This Finnish child-oriented model for well-being improves students’ behavior and communication education with support at three varied stages. Students are given support that focuses on well-being and finding joy in learning.
PROJECT ROCKIT Online is built BY young people FOR young people and encourages students to self-reflect on previous experiences while simultaneously equipping them with credible and risk-free ways to stand up to hate in the future. The program consists of three interactive online workshops that focus on the issues of bullying, online hate and social leadership. The online program was externally-evaluated by the University of New South Wales and at the end of the study, 96% (initial count: 46%) of young people felt confident enough to stand up against cyberbullying.
A 5-week long classroom or school-based project where students will perform kind works everywhere, such as at home, at school, in public, etc. These actions will be recorded in photos, videos, kind stories, etc. and shared with parents weekly. This innovation has already been shared with 11,000 students in Vietnam!
ChalkPeace, based out of Chennai (India), is a peace education program incorporating games, thinking and art to effect a shift in mindsets. Their Peace Education Resources and Workshops revolves around the core idea of peace being a process that begins from within: as empathy, respect for diversity or cultivating the value of mutual trust and tolerance.
These are only some of the innovations around the world that are doing some incredible work to eliminate the culture of Bullying in their local as well as global contexts. Please note that only MeeTwo and Roots of Empathy have the official endorsement of HundrED as they have been interviewed, researched and recognised in the Global 2018 collection. Others are ideas and innovations shared openly on our website and are of my personal liking.
Pukhraj Ranjan is an Indian educator based out of Helsinki, Finland. She is a Teach for India 2010 cohort and staff alumni. An Educational Leadership graduate from the University of Jyväskylä, she is currently working with a not-for-profit educational organisation, HundrED.org as their Global Community Manager. She believes in education as a means of understanding self and reaching one’s true potential, in edu-connections and collective power. She is also a Volunteer Researcher at One Future Collective.
Social media can be a wonderful thing. It allows us to keep in contact with those who live far away, it provides…hundred.org
‘I was deeply distressed by the suffering of children who cannot defend themselves. Bullying is a pernicious pervasive…hundred.org
‘A world free from all forms of exploitation and discrimination where everyone has the opportunity to realize their…hundred.org
BENGALURU: As many as 42% of students of Class 4 to 8 and 36% of Class 9 to 12 said they are subjected to harassment by…timesofindia.indiatimes.com
Mapping and negotiating power
Uncuff India Episode 10: Dimensions of conflict and peace: visioning a utopian world
Uncuff India Episode 9: Civic space and dissent: A pathway to social justice