Public seeks answers to escalating school violence

After watching a video clip on the Internet of a group of high school girls beating their classmate at Tran Nhan Tong school in Hanoi, a leader of the Ministry of Education and Training could only stare silently at the computer screen, trying to process what he was seeing.

Students of Nguyen Van Troi primary school, District 4, HCMC during break. Active participation from families and society at large is needed in creating conditions for children to learn empathy and express themselves in healthier ways. (Photo: Mai Hai)

Many other educational officials have also expressed bafflement as incidences of school violence have been on the rise in the last several months. Teachers, parents and the public are beginning to question what lies at the root of the increasing student violence in the country.

Some blame an apathetic generation of young people whose families, teachers and society have not taken the time to teach them good moral conduct and ethical behavior.

The Vietnamese public is growing increasingly concerned about the issue and looking to assign blame for the problem. In the most recent incidence of school violence, the principal of Le Lai Secondary School was forced to resign after students were caught fighting in his school. 

According to the Ministry of Education and Training, statistics from 38 Education and Training departments from 2003 until now, show that over 8,000 students have participated in a fight and faced disciplinary measures.

In Ho Chi Minh City, the Department of Education and Training recently conducted a study at all secondary and high schools in the city to try to determine the root cause of the escalating aggressive behavior.

According to the surveys, students felt burn-out from heavy academic workloads and were thus unmotivated to study. Many also reported spending a great deal of time playing computer and videogames, and said their families showed a lax attitude toward teaching them good moral conduct.

Some suggest that the appearance of online games in Vietnam, besides being a form of entertainment and escapism, has also contributed to an increase in violent behavior amongst some students.

Some countries have banned certain violent video games, but the definition of such games is controversial, especially in Vietnam where State agencies currently do not closely regulate gaming content.

Recently, the Chinese Ministry of Culture banned the development and circulation of games promoting values “contrary to social morals and propriety such as beatings, killings, looting, rape, fraud and gory, violent scenes.” The ministry has said these types of games threaten and severely undermine efforts to build a lawful society and can easily harm young citizens.

In Vietnam, more than seven years after online games officially appeared in the country, the  Ministry of Education and Training has twice released a circular on taking measures to regulate online gaming. But to date, the circular has not been finalized.

Many say the country’s expanding market economy, exposure to new technology, and globalization is creating tough challenges in teaching traditional ethical behavior to Vietnam’s younger generations. Accordingly, moral values in society are changing rapidly while responses from the education sector have not kept pace.

Some say that bringing a focus back to moral education is tantamount in combating violence. However, schools cannot be expected to accomplish this on their own. Instead, what is needed is active participation from families and society at large in creating conditions for children to learn empathy and express themselves in healthier ways.

By Phuong Dong-Translated by Hong Tran

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