Over 80 per cent of children in grades three to six said they were generally very "happy" in a magazine poll, although over half of the students surveyed said they were scared at school and concerned with campus safety; both percentages were the highest in the past 11 years. In an annual survey on the happiness index of national students released by the Taiwan's Jiang-yi Magazine yesterday, 84.3 per cent of surveyed students reported being "happy," a significant rise from the 77.3 per cent recorded last year.
However, 55.8 per cent admitted they did not fully feel safe on campus; among the most worrying concerns were violence (43.2 per cent), falling victim to theft or mugging (33.3 per cent), sexual harassment (21.7 per cent) and others (1.8 per cent). The findings shed new light on the serious issue of schoolyard bullying the Ministry of Education (MOE) has been trying to tackle.
The questionnaire (using 2,200 total samples) was distributed across 22 cities and counties, among 44 elementary schools to students from third to six grade, with 2,174 completed surveys returned - a 98.8 per cent response rate.
Defining the term "happiness," 31.6 per cent of students referenced a warm and loving family, parental care and strong family bonds. In terms of what makes them happy, 37.1 per cent of children cited "going on a trip," meaning traveling overseas, going on vacation or even venturing out on a day trip. The second highest joy-inducer was "sports," with 19.4 per cent.
Looking at the juxtaposed findings on happiness and fear, Chai Sun-lin, founder of The First Social Welfare Foundation, said there was a clear correlation between family life and school safety for the students.
Not only should parents should pay more attention to their children, Chai advised, but they themselves should also set an example.
The home is the root of education for a person's character, Chai continued, stressing that parents should not shift all the teaching responsibilities onto teachers as "children are a mirror of their parents."
Parents are also urged to look for signs that their kids are being bullied, such as being withdrawn, dreading school and unstable emotions, said Tsai Wen-che, a doctor at the Child Psychiatric Department at National Taiwan University Hospital.
Tsai also stressed the importance of a stable family. When a child meets a problem, he should be able to receive support and encouragement from home, with parents who work with him towards a sound solution, the doctor added.