A Case for Values Education
Given the state of public life in our country today, where corruption is the order of the day, crass materialism a status symbol and violence and intolerance increasingly evident in day to day interactions, I would consider it high time that we made a concerted effort to teach values. However, the very first objection from many is that values cannot be taught, they are only ‘caught’. My contention is that of course they are ‘caught’ but they must also be taught because the current world–wide situation is unprecedented, and for every new situation/problem we have to find a new way to address it. Most teachers I have spoken to agree that values should be taught but also believe that they cannot be taught. Quite contradictory, isn’t it?
First of all let us look at how much importance we currently give to Values Education in our urban English medium schools. The situation is probably similar or worse (I very much doubt that it could be better) in other run-of-the-mill schools but I would like to restrict my comments to my experience. During the course of my workshops, I have asked more than 500 teachers whether they would consider teaching of values as important, more important or less important than teaching pure academic material. Ask yourself this question as well. In all probability you will have said either more important or as important. If that is so, then let us take a look at some ground realities.
The table below highlights the significance (or rather the lack of it) that is accorded to V Ed in most schools. I have used certain criteria for comparison but you could try it with any that may come to mind or compare with any other subject. Let me know if you find any situation where Values Education wins over other subjects. I would love to know of the exceptions!
Secondly, I personally do not understand why some educationists say that values cannot be taught. What is teaching after all? If teaching is… to impart knowledge or skills… or give instruction… and if it is done through discussions, experimenting, lectures, demonstration/ modeling, role playing, etc, why isn’t it possible to use the same methods to teach values? The knowledge content for teaching of values, I must admit, is a nebulous area but there is no doubt that all methods of teaching could be used to get students to understand the need to live ethical, meaningful and fulfilling lives.
Take a look at the table below. Can the lecture method be used to teach each and every subject including Values? Can discussions be used to teach all the subjects? I believe you will agree that it is possible to use all methods to teach all subjects including Values. Only the proportionate use of the methodologies would vary. While teaching Dance or Music the use of demonstration is more as compared to lectures or discussions whereas in social studies there would be more of the latter. So also in teaching of values the proportionate use of methodologies would be different from other subjects.
An English teacher needs to be articulate to be effective; similarly a good teacher of values needs to be a good role model and should be willing to ‘walk the talk’. This in other words is ‘demonstration’. Experimentation and practice are a must if we want to learn something new. Values too cannot be inculcated unless the laws of life are experimented with and put into practice. So though all methods are used, demonstration, discussion and practice would be the most important when it comes to teaching values.
To those who still say that values cannot be taught I would like to quote some great luminaries like Sri Aurobindo, Swami Vivekanada, Socrates, Galileo and even Einstein who said… Sri Aurobindo – ‘The first principle of teaching is that nothing can be taught.’ Swami Vivekanada – ‘No one was ever really taught by another. Each of us has to teach himself. The external teacher offers only the suggestion which rouses the internal teacher to work to understand things.’ Socrates – ‘I cannot teach anybody anything, I can only make them think.’
Galileo – ‘You cannot teach people anything. You can only help them discover it within themselves.’ Einstein – ‘I never teach my pupils; I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn.’ If we were to take cognizance of only the first part of these quotations we could end up saying…’why bother to teach at all?’ Which is what we are doing with V Ed right now. However, we know that teaching should be more an act of facilitation and obviously that is what these great philosophers and scientists meant to tell us. We can only assist the process of learning by providing the students with activities and opportunities to learn. Whether it is Maths, Science, English, Music or even Values for that matter, the pedagogy would remain the same.
So, the issue really should not be about whether values can be taught or not, but about finding good role models who will then use modern teaching methods to teach values so that the chances of the children learning good behaviour and making better choices in life are far greater. Thirdly, (unknown to many of us) across the globe, educators have been involved in the field of character education/moral education/ social and emotional learning/ values education. To get a peek into this very vast world of research have a look at the work of Thomas Lickona and Mathew Davidson… http://www2.cortland.edu/centers/character/resources/ SandG/index.dot or Angela Duckworth and Dave Levin…. http://characterlab.org/ or even Martin Seligman and his work on Positive Psychology for schools… http://www.ppc.sas.upenn.edu/ positiveeducationarticle2009.pdf In India it is the religious organisations who have been quietly working at moral instruction for decades. I say decades, because in recent times even they have developed courses which are very secular in nature and could be appreciated by a person belonging to any religion. There is material available which has been developed by UNESCO and Brahma Kumaris, Ramakrishna Mission, Chinmaya Mission, Sathya Sai Trust and many others. All of them have no doubt in their minds about whether values can be taught or should be taught. All research by western organisations has also come to similar conclusions. It is only in recent times that CBSE has started speaking about integration of values in the curriculum and has published a handbook for teachers, a set of cards and a CD with values based songs. All are steps in the right direction, but the task on hand is so gargantuan that unless we all join hands with the firm belief that values can, and must be taught we will not even start thinking about the possibilities of Values Education.
Jyoti Kumta is a trained teacher, counsellor, assessor and trainer with a wide variety of experience. She initially taught in various Army and Air Force schools around the country. Then she counselled parents, teachers and students in Delhi Public School, Agra. She has also worked as an Executive Assessor for Development Dimensions International (DDI), an internationally recognized company in the field of corporate assessments and training. However, she realised that her heart lay in schools so she consolidated all the skills (teaching, counselling and training) learnt over a period of more than two decades and prepared a training program for school children and teachers in the area of Value Education/Life Skills. She is currently conducting a year long training programme for teachers of Vikhe Patil Memorial School, Pune. Her aim is to create a structured, sustainable, blended learning programme which will ensure that Values Education becomes an integral part of the curriculum.