I first became involved in values education because I noticed that there were an increasing number of children coming to school without a basic understanding of words such as respect, tolerance, empathy, trust and friendship. Those who had access to this vocabulary had an advantage, as these children were able to behave well, were truthful, show basic manners, form good relationships, were more reflective and make the most of their schooling. Above all they had the ability to control their own behaviour and had a strong sense of the difference between right and wrong – they were happier.
As a Headteacher, I wanted all children to have access to what I now call an ethical vocabulary, so that none would be disadvantaged and all would want to live the values that they were learning at school. With the support of the school community I introduced an educational philosophy and practices that would, through values-based education, help children to develop ethical intelligence and be ethical leaders. A part of my philosophy is the understanding that we should all be leaders of our self; at times of others in the many roles we play in life. I researched the effects of creating a values-based school, which showed the incredible personal and social impact on children and the school community.
In recent decades the focus of the school curriculum has become fixed on academic standards and attainment, with the emphasis on learning more and more about mathematics and literacy at a younger and younger age. The result in England, as in many countries, is that children are not exposed to a rich diverse curriculum and are not educated with a sufficient focus on the development of ethical intelligence, which forms ethical leaders. Currently national leaders are not held accountable for the lies they tell, their behaviour or the way they manipulate public opinion to gain power. The general public is often unaware of being exposed to lies and half-lies, whether it is from the media or people with access to power.
What can be done to mitigate the social entropy this creates? I believe an answer is the creation of values-based schools and organisations. In values-based schools pupils learn about values and more importantly how to live them in their lives by practically putting them into action. They become more aware of their own behaviour and that of others. They learn self-leadership and know how to self-regulate their internal worlds. Adults who model positive human values teach them. Parents become a core part of the process. I outlined the process in my TEDx talk https://youtu.be/JK59OcZv8H4
Yes there is a crisis created by a lack of ethical leadership but there is hope, as I believe that schools can play a major role in creating a new generation, who are driven by a keen sense of ethics and the role this plays in our lives and society.
You can find out more by visiting www.valuesbasededucation.com