ABU DHABI // The World Health Organisation survey of pupils aged 13 to 15 in the UAE found that nearly half had been involved in a physical fight with another pupil in the previous year.
More than 22 per cent said they had been bullied during the previous month.
The 2010 survey found significantly more fighting among boys than girls: 62.7 per cent of boys said they had been in a fight the year before, compared with 35.8 per cent of girls.
The survey, which did not distinguish between fights on or off school grounds, found levels of fighting comparable to those in Kuwait, Lebanon and Algeria.
Schools should have a "zero-tolerance" policy for fighting or bullying, according to Carmen Benton, who teaches anti-bullying workshops to children in Dubai.
Schools should also implement preventive measures, including programmes that teach children conflict resolution, said Mariam Al Matroushi, director of the health legislation department at the Ministry of Health.
At Raha International School in the capital, guidance counsellors train pupils in mediation so they can resolve disagreements among their peers.
Fighting was rare, said the principal, Wayne MacInnis. "We try to be proactive about it."
Dr Al Matroushi recommended providing mentors to support children who are struggling.
"There are certain vulnerable students who are exposed to violence at home or in the community," she said. "They will be more predisposed to be violent."
Parents are responsible as well, said Ms Benton. They should avoid telling their children to "hit back" if someone strikes them.
"This is not a good thing to be teaching your children," said Ms Benton.
Instead, parents should encourage youngsters to "get to a safe place" and approach a trusted adult.