National Education Minister Mahmut Özer announced on Wednesday the launch of a professional development program for counselors and teachers to strengthen the outreach of anti-peer bullying initiatives in schools.
The Turkish Ministry of Education (MEB) noted that as part of the “Family School Project”, it will continuously support students, teachers and families to raise awareness against peer bullying.
Minister Özer, who gave information about the “Integrated School Approach in Preventing Peer Bullying Workshop” organized by the MEB in Ankara, pointed out that the visibility of peer bullying in the media has increased recently, but this does not mean that there is “widespread peer bullying in schools.”
He said these incidents are isolated events taking place in the vast educational fraternity that includes 19.15 million students and 1.2 million teachers.
Özer explained that they conduct multifaceted studies to build a safe school environment and try to build mechanisms that will strengthen and support the school system, and also noted that multidimensional studies of preventive methods are carried out through counselors. For example, he noted that for the 2022-2023 academic year, new awareness and psychoeducation programs have been prepared at all levels in schools, including “peer bullying”, “cyber bullying” and “psychological resilience”.
Özer also stated that several programs have been put together for preschool and elementary school students to raise awareness about peer bullying and help them develop coping skills.
Through the Family School Project, which is set up not only for schools but also for extracurricular environments, they reached 1,147,555 people, 841,267 of whom were women, the minister said. He emphasized that with this project they are working to strengthen the communication environment and reach about 170,000 people in village centers within four to five months.
Özer stressed that they show no tolerance for bullying in schools and said they will not make the slightest concession to make educational institutions safe for both children and teachers. He also stated that they have accelerated efforts to popularize this culture in schools, while also hosting a workshop to explain peer bullying.
The workshop “The Holistic School Approach to Preventing Peer Bullying” included participation by academics, school administrators of different levels and types of education from different provinces, guidance teachers and psychological counselors. Özer said that during the workshop they discussed many aspects of the problem, including strategies to prevent peer bullying and the role of families and school in preventing it.
Role of family
Minister Özer, whose views were also reflected in the workshop report, said academics have made a recommendation that peer bullying studies should be conducted with a holistic approach. They suggested working with all school stakeholders, such as school administrators, teachers, parents and support staff in shaping a healthy school environment, and stepping up collaboration with relevant institutions and organizations.
“We will continuously support our students, teachers and families to raise awareness against peer bullying. We will step up our activities to strengthen families, which is one of the key elements of the process, to conduct studies with a holistic tackling peer bullying. We will give more weight to our Family School Project activities that we have started,” he noted.
He also stressed that the workshop’s final report included a proposal to “assess the risks of peer bullying in schools and plan prevention and intervention studies”, saying: “We intend to appoint new teachers as guidance counselors in every school. About 40,000 guidance teachers and psychological counselors work in our schools. Our workshop report recommends starting a program to increase the professional competence of these teachers in the field of social-emotional skills. We have also started working on this .”
In addition, he added that the ministry is also distributing content specific to kindergartens, primary schools, middle schools and high schools, prepared under the “Psychoeducation in Challenging Life Events Project”.
Özer stated that academics needed guidance classes at all levels to effectively implement developmental, preventive, remedial guidance and psychological counseling services at the school level.
Özer reiterated that bullying by peers in high schools is a disciplinary offense and pointed out that discussions are also underway about what could be enacted into legislation to prevent bullying and violence in schools.
“We will implement our new plans according to the final report of the workshop and announce it to the public when all these issues are clear. Our goal is to bring our education system to a much healthier point. We are working hard on this,” he concluded .