Values education: an exciting ingredient that spawns ambition and achievement

Rosemary Dewan

Rosemary Dewan is the CEO of the Human Values Foundation which promotes the importance of teaching human values in schools. Since 1995 it has been providing practical, cross-curricular programmes for personal development and behaviour management, integrating SMSC, PSHE education, Citizenship, PLTS and SEAL.

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Website: www.humanvaluesfoundation.com Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Given that pupils have to learn a huge amount, it can be easy to forget about their emotional wellbeing. The Human Values Foundation’s Rosemary Dewan discusses the importance of this matter.

What subject is dynamic, cross-curricular, student-centric and stimulates children and young people? This is a subject constantly arousing their curiosity, thereby enabling teachers to capitalise on pupils’ eagerness to learn, and affording plenty of practical opportunities for schools to work collaboratively with parents, carers and professionals who are involved in guiding and mentoring children. The answer is values education. 

While no single strategy can motivate all students - since values affect every area of our lives - many children and young people find that a regular focus on them empowers them, meets their needs and makes their learning relevant, meaningful and enjoyable.

The multi-dimensional nature of values education impacts everything taking place in a school, from its ethos and physical attributes to its culture and activities to achieve its mission and goals. Delivered systematically, as an integral part of the curriculum mix, it not only underpins, cements and integrates so many initiatives; it also constantly “adds value” to schooling and learners’ prospects in life. It blends and deepens all learning and continuously makes a significant contribution to a school fulfilling its challenging purpose in modern society, equipping each of its pupils with essential knowledge, skills and competencies for life in the 21st century.

Looming crises in our schools – and a balanced focus

One of the topmost considerations in schools today is that of the wellbeing of EVERYONE making up the community. There is a sense of an expanding crisis of mental health occurring in classrooms, staff rooms and amongst key adults in families. Statistics indicate that anxiety levels and rates of depression have increased in recent years, with the relentless pressure to meet test and exam targets being one of the chief factors.

A growing body of evidence suggests that large numbers of children are facing unprecedented levels of stress. It has been reported that pupils’ concentration is being eroded by the “incessant chatter” of modern life due to children spending an inordinate amount of time on social media websites such as Facebook and Twitter. Anxiety levels for UK teenage girls are said to be at an all-time high.

Data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) shows that increasingly, teenagers, including the rising number of students who are ‘successful’ in terms of exam results, are disengaged from and demotivated by the process of schooling. Additionally, in January 2014 it found that truancy rates in UK schools are higher than those in other developed nations. Of necessity, educationalists, policymakers and others are rethinking priorities.

Research is confirming what many parents already believe, which is that schools that focus on character formation, as well as academic achievement, are more likely to develop happier children with mindsets that enable them to become successful young people. This is where progressive education in human values, ie. those that enrich our lives as human beings, comes in. Its holistic approach enables learners to build a solid foundation for productive, happy, fulfilling lives, and it opens up channels of communication with parents.

Making the most of opportunities that life presents

Evidence emerging globally shows that when positive values are embedded into the day-to-day life of a school, wide-ranging benefits arise. These include enhancements to the quality of teaching and learning, less truancy, better concentration and depth of thought, greater happiness and a rise in personal standards, expectations and academic attainment. The associated class discussions, dialogue and argument, which are very powerful tools for learning, result in numerous feel-good factors such as higher self-esteem, becoming more confident and capable of addressing issues, being better able to manage difficult situations, developing the habit of well informed decision-making and behaving in accordance with values individuals believe are right for them.

As chosen values impact us every day, the collaborative, regular study of human values - including those highlighted in all school subjects - enables pupils to be themselves and better understand their thoughts and feelings. Exploring and connecting them with what they are learning, and with real personal and societal concerns, and putting them into practice both within schools and beyond the school gates, nurtures skills and tools that enable young citizens to make the most of their gifts, talents and abilities; to be ambitious and take full advantage of the opportunities that life presents. Participants become fascinated by what they learn about themselves and how they and others tick.

Values Education – improving health and wellbeing

Worldwide there is a growing body of research to show that when values education is woven into the mainstream curriculum, not only does it make the whole education experience richer and better, but it also leads to improvements in outcomes for a broad range of health problems, not least of which is reducing anxiety. The incremental process promotes quality relationships, healthy living and psychological resilience to stress, while also boosting individuals’ emotional security and developing a range of personal assets that young people are able to draw on as their lives unfold.

Short and regular periods of quiet reflection are a critical ingredient in a coherent values education scheme, temporarily freeing pupils from the demands of their work, mobile phones and the internet. With young people experiencing increasingly frantic pressure in their lives, the resulting informed awareness and the ability to ‘live in the now’, helps to reduce perceived stress.

Values Education – objectives and outcomes

The best outcomes arise when teachers, parents, carers and other members of the school community work as an informed team promoting a whole-school approach to values literacy and being alert to ‘teachable moments’. This helps to integrate the mental, physical, spiritual, emotional and social development of each child so that from an early age, every one of them can progressively build capability and achieve as they gain a growing awareness of the following objectives:

RESPONSIBILITY:

  • Awareness of their responsibilities towards others, themselves and the environment
  • To know some ‘moral rights’ and ‘animal rights’
  • Realise they have a positive role to play in making a harmonious future in the home, at school and in the community
  • Learn to co-operate and be ready to join others
  • Develop unity and teamwork
  • Listen to others’ viewpoints using flexibility and adaptability
  • Gain ‘a sense of the whole’
  • Develop respect for all things, including respect for parents, carers, teachers, each other, elders, law and order
  • Understand the importance of learning
  • Be aware of the consequences of uncontrolled anger
  • Empathise with and be aware of other people’s needs
  • Co-operate with others in the pursuit of shared goals

SKILLS:

  • Analyse, classify, contrast, store and retrieve information
  • State preferences
  • Compare similarities and differences
  • Resolve simple conflicts and problems
  • Relate, deduce, write, record
  • Listen, talk, express an opinion
  • Develop non-verbal communications
  • Memorise and recall
  • Develop physical well-being and creativity
  • Reach mutual agreements

PERSONAL GROWTH:

  • Learn to still the mind, relax and breathe well
  • Visualise simple pictures or imaginary scenes
  • Understand concepts of inner peace
  • Feel self-worth and value others
  • Identify and express feelings
  • Practise forgiveness
  • Give help and encouragement and consequently receive the same from others
BUILD and MAINTAIN qualities such as:

  • Compassion
  • Confidence
  • Courage
  • Curiosity
  • Friendship
  • Honesty
  • Initiative
  • Integrity
  • Kindness
  • Loyalty
  • Motivation
  • Openness
  • Optimism
  • Patience
  • Perseverance
  • Resiliance
  • Tolerance
  • Trust

DEVELOP:

  • Spiritual, moral, social and cultural skills
  • Learn to be positive and make decisions built on carefully considered information
  • Understand some major causes of conflicts in the home, at school, during play and develop negotiating skills
  • Nurture a sense of self-esteem
  • Know strengths and weaknesses
  • Use of imagination
  • Gain satisfaction, success, self-respect and self-confidence
  • Understand that not everyone shares the same viewpoint
  • Develop good behaviour and healthy habits and an understanding of good nutrition
  • Use time wisely
  • Practise leadership qualities
  • Know how to react and what to do if bullied
  • Know there are duties to oneself, one’s family and one’s community

ETHICAL AND OTHER SKILLS

  • Try to identify right and wrong and modify ideas with maturity
  • Know that honesty and fair play are important to good behaviour and human relationships
  • Respect the environment and develop concern for all life; appreciate the beauty of nature
  • Respect other cultures and lifestyles; understand the concepts of ‘interdependence’ and ‘brotherhood / sisterhood’
  • Know some of the causes and effects of destruction or threat to the environment; know some precautions that can be adopted to protect the environment, including saving energy and resources
  • Understand some of the principles of conservation and pollution and know they can contribute to the wellbeing of the planet
  • See a sense in having a future, which they prefer; to be a good citizen
  • Develop national and global awareness and recognise the ‘interdependence of nations’
  • Recognise there is constant change taking place all around us.

How do you go about making sure your pupils are content? Let us know in the comments.

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