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The Importance of Teaching Values in Education

What’s the value of a value-based education?

Teaching values

“Education without values, as useful as it is, seems rather to make man a more clever devil.” – CS Lewis

Earlier this year we contacted a number of educators and technologists from around the world for their thoughts on the trends and challenges facing education and technology in 2016. One interesting thing we noted about the results was the fact that there were so many unique insights and so few overlapping ideas. Just as interesting, however, was an area where their thoughts did converge – namely, the importance of teaching values in education.

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Putting back values in education

While technological advances are wont to throw up all kinds of questions about pedagogical practices and the evolution of the learning environment, the role of values in education gets far less attention. This seems strange, given that developing a basic set of values has always been a cornerstone of a students’ education.

So what kinds of values should teachers help students to develop, and how can they do so without coming across as preachers more than they do educators?

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To decide, an educator would first need to consider context: students now live in a fully globalized world in which more people than ever are connected via the web. One of the significant results of this greater communication and access to advanced technology is the deluge of information we receive – news, entertainment, opinions, advertisements and so on. How are young minds to cope with all this stimulation? Are they properly equipped to cope with it at all?

Values in education can help ensure that they are.

Even though the world changes rapidly, the values that students need to develop are actually not really much different to those that were taught in bygone generations. It is just the application of those values in education that has changed.

Showing respect to others, for instance, or caring for the environment are just as important as they ever were – and maybe even more so – but they are now applicable in a variety of new ways. For example:

  • Teaching students to be respectful of others can now be applied to their behavior online as well as off-line. Students should understand the importance of acting responsibly and respectfully when using forums, social media, or mobile devices.
  • Similarly, good citizenship can now be equally applied to practicing good digital citizenship, whereby students learn to avoid the misuse of information or to acknowledge and respect others’ right to peace and privacy.
  • Showing tolerance and understanding to those less fortunate. The escalating refugee crises is challenging both communities and schools to integrate people in a respectful and sustainable way. School is the ideal place to start teaching the correct values towards refugees and develop understanding of different cultures around the world.

These are just some of the values that educators should be aiming to instill in their students. As the educators and experts we contacted point out below, values are an essential part of the response to a number of difficult challenges that education faces:

Savas Savides
Publisher and former educator, Greece

“The devastating conflict in the Middle East and the waves of refugees seeking protection in Europe will soon have a significant impact on values in education throughout the European continent. Educational leaders need to find ways to integrate the refugee population in school in a way that is both pragmatic and respectful.”

Shelly Sanchez Terrell
Teacher Trainer and eLearning Specialist, US

“The challenge we face worldwide is how teachers, parents, leadership, and communities will help learners design intelligently and innovate with compassion. We desperately need citizenship back in the curriculum. We also need less focus on grades and standardizing. We need more focus on providing the room for experimentation and testing of ideas several times without students having to worry it will have high stakes on their grades, admission into college, and future.”

Jesus Maria Viviani
Educator and Author, Spain

“A major challenge about the values in education is to teach non-discrimination and respect for others. Students must learn to recognize different cultures and ways of thinking, and to understand that prejudices can hinder the ability to think and live in peace.

This challenge also extends to the natural world and bio-diversity. This means considering the environment as the ‘third educator’ (after the family and school), whose role is to promote learning from experiences abroad, contact with the natural world. It also means recognizing the abilities of children as active and informed citizens.”

3 quick tips for teaching values in education

It’s clear that teachers have a central role in imparting these values to students. There are many ways by which they may do so, but to help give an idea, here are three quick tips.

1. Lead by example

Probably the most important point of all. If you want your students to show solidarity, be supportive. If you want your students to respect diversity, then you have to respect diversity too. It’s the teacher’s responsibility to lead by example.

2. Embrace adversity

Create scenarios in which students feel outside of their comfort zones (within reason) and are confronted with situations that reinforce the values in education. Doing so will allow students to become familiar with examining and understanding different points of view – something that is very important to developing a greater sense of maturity.

3. Use external resources

External resources offer a great alternative to the above in allowing students to explore situations that might otherwise be impossible in the context of a class. These resources may include films, shorts, documentaries, news, or numerous other study resources.

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