Elementary schools in Japan are turning into veritable battlegrounds with violence at record levels, but assaults among junior and senior high school students are tailing off, an education ministry survey showed Sept. 16.
Reported assaults at elementary schools hit a record 11,468 in the 2014 school year through March, up about 5 percent from a year earlier, while the figures at junior and senior high schools were down by more than 10 percent.
Spiraling violence among elementary school pupils can be blamed in part on an inability to control emotions as well as poor communication skills, the ministry said.
It also cited a growing number of students from poor backgrounds as well as problems at home as a possible reason.
Of the 11,468 incidents, 7,113 cases involved fights among fellow pupils. The survey also listed 2,151 assaults on teachers, 207 attacks against other people and 1,997 cases of damage to property.
While the number of sixth-graders who behaved violently dropped from the previous school year, the number of such first-graders more than doubled from five years ago.
The ministry's list of reasons for the spike included a rise in the number of repeat offenders and children from difficult backgrounds where poverty and other factors had deprived them of opportunities to develop verbal communication skills before entering school.
The survey covered all public and private elementary, junior and senior high schools in Japan.
Examples of violence included pupils repeatedly kicking teachers, children beating each other over hidden stationery and breaking school windows by throwing snowballs.
The incidents occurred at 2,449 elementary schools, or 12 percent of all elementary schools in Japan.
At junior high schools, violent incidents totaled 35,683 cases, down 11.3 percent from the previous school year. The cases at senior high schools also dropped 13.6 percent to 7,091.
The declining number of gangs of delinquent youths nationwide is likely a factor behind the drop in violent incidents at junior and senior high schools, ministry officials said.
Among prefectures, Osaka Prefecture was the most violent with 10.6 cases per 1,000 children attending elementary, junior and senior high schools, while Akita Prefecture boasted the least violence with 0.6 cases.
The report also said 230 elementary, junior and senior high school children committed suicide, including seven elementary pupils, in the 2014 school year, or 10 less than the previous year.
Problems in determining what to do after graduation were cited as a possible reason behind 21 suicides while 20 were attributed to family relationship problems. Five students apparently killed themselves due to school bullying.
The survey also showed that there were 122,902 elementary and junior high school students who refused or were unable to attend school in the last school year, an increase of 3,285 students from the previous year.
The rate of truancy was at an all-time high of 3.9 students per 1,000 elementary school pupils.