Chennai: The scrapping of moral instruction classes in the schools, the near absence of physical sporting activities and lack of adequate parental supervision at home are some of the reasons for students turning into killers or committing suicides, a cross-section of people in this southern metropolis say.
The general lowering of tolerance levels in society, the influence of social media and teachers becoming more focussed on completing the syllabus are some of the other reasons, they added.
"Research studies have found that the foundation of a person's moral values solidifies by his seventh year. Parents and teachers should take extra care to inculcate good values during this period which will guide the person till his/her end," Chitra Aravind, a city-based consultant psychologist, said in response to an IANS survey on what ails society today.
Children absorb values and other things happening around them till they are eight or nine years old, and after that they start analysing.
"In these days of nuclear families, schools play an important role in shaping a person's moral values. Sadly, we see parents and schools consider their wards to be syllabus-cramming machines rather than children," Nitya Varadarajan, managing editor of Parent Circle parenting magazine, told IANS.
According to her, with attitudes changing fast due to communication technology, social media and nuclear families, schools should focus more on inculcating moral and human values in children.
"Parents too should change their attitudes. Moral values, soft skills are more important during a child's formative years than marks," Aravind remarked.
The hacking to death of L.R.D. Suresh, 53, principal of the Infant Jesus College of Engineering and Technology in Tuticorin district by three students for suspending one of them has shocked the state.
Last year, a Class 9 student of St. Mary's Anglo-Indian School here stabbed his Hindi teacher, Uma Maheswari, to death for complaining to his parents about his poor academic performance.
Way back in 1996, John David, a student of medicine at Annamalai University, Chidambaram in Tamil Nadu, killed and chopped his junior Pon Navarasu's body into several parts and scattered them in different places.
Violent clashes amongst college students who possess dangerous weapons is becoming common.
There is also the trend of students and girls committing suicide after getting upset over minor matters.
"In our parlance, there are two kinds of anger - anger-in and anger-out. Generally the girls suffer from anger-in, they do not let out their problem and resort to suicide. But it is anger-out for boys, who let out their anger on others, sometimes violently," psychologist Aravind said.
She said parents have an important role to play when their children are in the 15-16 age bracket and they cannot shift their responsibility to teachers.
"The education system that many years ago also used to impart good values in students is now only focussing on making students secure marks. This is the main reason for this degradation," PMK founder S. Ramadoss said.
"Big and small screens (cinema and television) are to blame for this situation. Further, schools have discontinued moral instruction classes and this is also one of the reasons for students behaving in a violent manner," M. Ponnavaiko, vice chancellor of SRM University, told IANS.
Fifty percent of the population falls in the les-than-25 years age bracket, Ramadoss pointed out, adding that if the country is to become a superpower, a lot needs to be vested with this group.
"It is important to restart the moral instruction period in schools and colleges. There should be counselling of students. The government should take steps to close the liquor shops," he added.
In addition, educational institutions should give importance to sporting activities amongst students.
"While sports inculcates several positive aspects in a person it also helps in draining out the student's energy which otherwise will get used in aggressive, harmful action. For a 20-year-old youth controlling emotion impulses is difficult. The youth should have a goal-oriented life and work towards it," Aravind said.
She said educational institutions should make their students drain their energies through physical activities.
"There is a large number of students who do not play any games - outdoor or indoor. Most of them play games on their mobile phones or computers or watch television. When I was in school/college I used to go out, meet friends and play. But such a thing is not seen today," M. Karthikeyan, a private sector employee, told IANS.
Parents should allow their children to go out and play with others of their age-group.
"Only then children will be children; otherwise they will be child-adults with an `I am right' attitude," he said.
Aravind said the solution to this problem is a long-term one and has to be multi-pronged, but the beginning is always at home and with parents.
Small things like orderly parking outside schools by the parents while dropping their wards, observance of traffic regulations, respect for elders at home and fear of god will go a long way in moulding the character of a child, Karthikeyan said.
A senior official in the state education department, not wanting to be quoted, told IANS: "The moral values and soft skills are taught as part of a subject now rather than having a separate period."
According to Parent Circle's Varadarajan the lessons and the teaching methods should be made interesting. Further, these classes become the casualty as the schools are interested in completing the portions.
(Venkatachari Jagannathan can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)