“Students don’t know who to talk to about this” – Study looks into bullying at Czech schools

According to a freshly released survey conducted by the education firm Scio, four out of ten Czech elementary school students between the ages of 11 to 15 say they often encounter verbal abuse in their class and 13 percent reported that physical abuse is relatively common as well. The authors of the study say they were particularly surprised by the lack of student knowledge about ways through which such forms of bullying can be reported.

“Our research confirms what we have seen from previous studies in recent years. It confirmed that bullying is present in some form or other in Czech schools,” says Scio’s communications manager Bohuslav Bohuněk about the results of the survey that collected answers from more than 27,000 students and 18,000 parents across 110 elementary schools in Czechia.

Photo illustrative: Michaela Danelová,  Czech Radio

Nevertheless, he says that defining the term “bullying” can be very subjective and the authors of the study therefore chose to approach the question from a different angle in their survey.

“We asked students the question: ‘Does it happen in school that someone verbally abuses another’. We didn’t expressly use the term ‘bullying’, so every student can interpret what verbal abuse means by themselves. We also asked about ‘physical abuse’.

“It can therefore mean both systematic bullying or a one-off thing like boys having a fight during a break because of something stupid.”

The findings echo similar results that have come in from other studies conducted in Czechia and abroad in recent years, says Mr Bohuněk, but what the Scio team did find surprising was the lack of knowledge among students about who they could talk to when it came to these issues.

“When they were asked if there is someone at school in whom they could confide, about bullying or similar problems, more than a half of students said that there either is no such person in their school or that they don’t know about them.

“We consider that a particularly interesting find, that students don’t know who to talk to about this.”

Photo illustrative: evgeniya_kets,  Pixabay,  Pixabay License

The reason why this is surprising is because many Czech schools have a member of staff that is trained for precisely this issue.

“Schools either have their own psychologists or they can also draw on external projects, such as the whistleblowing website Nenech to být (Don’t do nothing about it), which make it possible for students to open up about these problems anonymously.

“We can only speculate about why students don’t know about these options. Perhaps there is insufficient information about it at schools.”

It wasn’t just bullying that the survey focused on. Students were also asked about their favourite subjects. Here, elementary school students of all ages (6 to 15), placed physical education at the top, he says.

“That might be surprising for those who say that children don’t like to do exercise nowadays.

“Music and art classes also scored highly. What may come as a surprise too is that mathematics classes are very popular among two thirds of children between the ages of 6 to 11.”

Photo:  Myriams-Fotos,  Pixabay,  Pixabay License

Among older students maths classes were a more divisive subject, with some saying they love them and other respondents stating the precise opposite. The survey also found that the popularity of English and IT classes had risen substantially in popularity when compared to pre-pandemic results.

When it came to responses from parents Mr Bohuněk says that the team was surprised by the number that rated their child’s school highly.

“We asked parents how they would mark their school and the vast majority, 84 percent, rated them with either an A or a B.”

Asked about the criteria by which they select the right school for their children, seven out of ten parents said that they choose the school’s distance from their home is important. Around 40 percent also said that they decide on the basis of whether their child has a friend or sibling already enrolled at the school. The reputation of the institution was another criterion commonly selected by respondents. Meanwhile, the individual reputation of its teachers was a criterion that very few selected as relevant.