Academic journal article Childhood Education

Exploring Bullying: An Early Childhood Perspective from Mainland China

Academic journal article Childhood Education

Exploring Bullying: An Early Childhood Perspective from Mainland China

Article excerpt

One spring, a 5-year-old girl named Ting arrived from China to join her mother, Chunlan, a doctoral student at a university in the north-eastern United States. Ting was so happy to be with her mother, and was particularly excited that she would now be able to go to school. Not all of the children could go to school in the village where she grew up.

After Ting received her inoculations, her mother registered her for school. With an enthusiasm almost equal to her mother's, Ting set off for school, carrying her new backpack as she confidently climbed onto the school bus. Although she could not speak any English, Ting wasn't worried; her mother was told an interpreter would be available at school. Chunlan was happy her daughter would finally receive the Western education that many Chinese dream of obtaining. Ting really liked to go to school; it was fun to play games, even though she could not communicate. However, each day on the bus ride home, other children would throw shoes at her, spit on her, pull her hair, or call her "stupid." Ting did not even understand what they were saying until she repeated the word "stupid" to her mother. Ting was the victim of bullying.

By the time Ting was 9 years old, she had become a very good student. She had learned English, increased her reading ability to a 6th-grade level, and had the math skills of a 7th-grader. She enjoyed learning and was especially fond of writing poems. Her mother finished her doctoral degree and graduated. The family moved to another college town in the Midwest. Ting was excited about going to a new school. For her first day, Ting decided to bring dumplings, one of her favorite foods, for lunch. As soon as she entered the school she realized she was the only Asian child. Still she was excited for an opportunity to make new friends. The classes were interesting. She could not wait for lunch time as she thought about her favorite food in her lunchbox. As soon as she opened her lunchbox, however, a crowd of students laughed at her. One said, "Japanese people use sticks for food."

"I am not Japanese, I am a Chinese," Ting responded.

The other student mocked her: "Dig a hole in the backyard, it will go to China." "She is from the other side of the earth ... HA."

Ting sadly closed her lunchbox and did not touch her favorite meal. No adult intervened to stop the verbal bullying. One week later, Ting was pushed purposely (according to witnesses) on the playground, sustaining a cut over her eyebrow that needed four stitches. Chunlan received a phone call from school as her daughter lay in the emergency room. The child who bullied her did not even say "sorry." Ting's family had not been notified about any bullying until the hospital incident.

Chunlan could not believe it. She was convinced this would never have happened in her village in China among such a young group of children. She was shocked that the teacher did not take the bullying seriously and never informed her that it was occurring.

Is it true that this incident would not happen among such young students in mainland China? Schools in the United States are developing anti-bullying programs as students and parents complain of unwelcome teasing, bullying, and intimidating behavior. Are the United States and other western countries the only places where these appalling behaviors are occurring? Literature on bullying in China is scarce. In 2000, Zhan Wenxin of Shandong Teachers' University, People's Republic of China, along with Kein Jones from the University College Worcester, UK, presented a paper on their pioneer research in bullying among 4,000 Chinese students ages 9-15. They learned that bullying did not occur in schools in China, but instead occurred as children traveled to and from school (Wenxin & Jones, 2004). In China, older students often go home for lunch, but spend recess periods at school in teacher-directed physical activity. Wong (2004) reported a rise in bullying in Hong Kong, but again it was with older students. …

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