TOKYO (Kyodo) -- The number of reported cases of bullying at Japanese schools hit a record high of over 320,000 in academic year 2016 due partly to efforts to detect early signs, the education ministry said Thursday.
Altogether 323,808 bullying cases at elementary, junior high and high schools were reported, up 43.8 percent from a year before, with the figure for elementary schools jumping 1.5-fold. But according to results of a survey, 90.6 percent of the total cases had been resolved and efforts were under way to address another 9.1 percent.
"We must take seriously the increase in the number," said a ministry official. "But we believe we are moving in a desirable direction to save children as long as we are able to recognize bullying earlier and deal with the situation."
The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology said 400 cases at 374 schools amounted to what it calls "serious situations" as defined by a law on bullying prevention, in which the children had experienced significant mental and physical suffering.
Of 244 students who committed suicide, 10 had been bullied.
About 30 percent of schools, meanwhile, said they did not recognize any bullying. The ministry believes there may have been overlooked incidents, given that the number of reported bullying cases per 1,000 students differs among prefectures.
The number of bullying cases at elementary schools stood at 237,921, up 86,229 from a year earlier. The cases showed notable increases involving first to fourth graders at six-year elementary schools.
Among the types of bullying, ridicule and slander accounted for the most at 62.5 percent. Online bullying using computers or mobile phones comprised 3.3 percent, but it amounted to 17.4 percent at high schools.
The number of violent acts at elementary, junior high and senior high schools rose 2,651 to 59,457 cases. The figure for elementary schools hit a record high of 22,847 cases, up 5,769 from a year before.
The education ministry said the outcome may again have been influenced by efforts to more actively recognize bullying from subtle signs, but admitted that some children seem to lose their temper and behave violently.
Kazuo Takeuchi, an associate professor at the University of Hyogo, said the increase in bullying and violent acts involving elementary school students warrant attention as it could be related to the changing environment surrounding children, especially the spread of the internet.
"The types of bullying are becoming different from the time the teachers were children. There is a need to make efforts to know what is happening to the children in the current era," he said.