Delinquency: Expert calls for screening of pupils

PETALING JAYA: A psychologist has called for the screening of schoolchildren to detect signs of potential delinquent behaviour, saying the procedure would facilitate early intervention.

Geshina Ayu Mat Saat, who is attached to Universiti Sains Malaysia, said the assessment could be done by comparing a student’s behaviour pattern to the psychosocial traits of known delinquents.

Geshina Ayu Mat Saat

She told FMT she had participated in a study on the issue and her team found significant differences in traits between non-delinquent and delinquent groups.

According to her, having moral education in schools may be insufficient because what is conventionally regarded as “moral values” would “address only one of the underlying factors of criminality and delinquency”.

She said other factors that needed to be considered included family backgrounds, exposure to peers with deviant behaviour, curiosity, a willingness to take high risks, a tendency to answer a dare, the type and level of aggression, and the age of first involvement in delinquency.

Geshina, who is also a criminologist, was asked to comment on the recent revelation by the education ministry that 6,197 disciplinary cases with criminal elements were recorded in schools in 2017.

The ministry also referred to last year’s curriculum revamp that affected Year One and Form One students. It said one of the aims was to ensure that Moral Studies taught in schools remained relevant.

Geshina said moral lessons in school would not have a lifelong effect unless they were supported by teachings at home and through social environments.

She suggested that the authorities look at both the macro and micro factors related to the high number of cases cited by the ministry.

“The macro factors include the overall school system, a school’s attitude towards delinquency compared with its image and positioning, and the social and psychological environments surrounding at-risk children,” she said.

“The micro factors include the moral studies syllabus, teaching pedagogy, student learning styles, and the child’s pro-delinquent attitudes and behaviour prior to taking the subject.”