In 2006 Hassan suggested that ’the fundamental standards of humanity are increasingly being ignored’ (Vardy 2006 p.2), suggesting that we live in an increasingly divided world of values between those who ‘see life without essential meaning and purpose and dedicate themselves to material success and those who have a wider set of values which suggest there is more to life than this.’ (p.2). Likewise, In the context of world conflict and increased levels of terrorism, as educator’s we are beholden to seek consonance rather than divergence. It becomes even more important for schools to define what a ‘values education’ is and ensure that students become ethical, caring and compassionate individuals. Indeed, perhaps education offers the one chance to create a balance within a divided world offering the creation of new thoughts that synthesize Western and Eastern perspectives to create a new combination of universal truths. The Dalai Lama often speaks of evolving a better world finding a way to reach the whole of humanity through ‘warm-heartedness’ (p5)
In essence, we need to talk. As President Khatami of Iran, reflecting on the state of the world, said at UNESCO in 2003: ‘education must have an inclusive vision of human rights, mutual respect, intercultural dialogue, and must lead to an alleviation of poverty, whilst bringing justice and equity to all – dialogue’ he said ‘is the principle need of the international community’ (UNESCO 2004). It is enough to posit that humanity today stands at a crossroads and we are fighting a ‘war’ of values.
In school’s curriculum’s should begin to move beyond the ‘local and national’ to emphasize an empathy and considered understanding of other paradigms and thoughts – not necessarily to accept blindly, but to engage in a serious analysis and reflection upon our own cultural roots to recognize what truly draws together. In 2006, Peter Vardy considered ‘What does it mean to be human?’ he concluded that there are ways of living that diminish us as human beings but there are also some that enhance and enable us to fulfill our potential. What are these valued actions that transcend national cultures to create a universal language? I would offer compassion, respect, love, honesty, equality, freedom, truth, friendship, tolerance, justice as some that bear thinking about. But, how can these be taught or even integrated into a school’s life?
In Australia, in 2005. We saw the introduction of a National Framework that identified the ‘nine areas of values education’ and instructed schools to underpin their learning systematically, through curriculums and programs that would build character as much as building knowledge and skills. They were as follows:
|Care and Compassion||Doing your best||Fair Go|
|Freedom||Honesty & trustworthiness||Integrity|
|Respect||Responsibility & Understanding||Tolerance & Inclusion|
Interestingly, Lovat’s (2007) research has drawn out crucial evidence that values education affects positively the academic progress and achievement of students showing also positive improvements in students’ ‘well-being’. Therefore realizing the full academic potential of students is best served in schools where there is a discernible ethics code and understandings. No that is revolutionary in an age where everyone is aiming for the very top grades.
To conclude, it is clear that values education offers a transformational impact in schools, not only in human terms, not only in preparation for future citizenship and world peace but also for academic success.
As, the Indian poet and Nobel laureate, Rabindranath Tagore, speaks of when writing how: “When races come together, as in the present age, it should not be merely the gathering of a crowd; there must be a bond of relation or they will collide with each other…” and the key understanding for everyone to acquire is a simple one that can be practised every single minute of every single day in all our interactions: respect.
Head of School
Garodia International Centre for Learning, Mumbai
- Australian Government, 2005, National Framework for Values Education in Australian Schools, DEST pg2
- Khatami (2004) text from ‘UNESCO Shared Values’ conferences. UNESCO publications
- Lovat and Toomey c (2007). Values Education and Quality Teaching: The Double Helix Effect. Sydney: David Barlow Publishing accessed from www.valuescentredschools.edu.au/verve/_resources/doublehelix.pdf April 25 2015
- Vardy Peter (2006) Values Education. IBO International Conference Hanoi 2006 transcript