The role of Schools in the development of Moral Education

Publish: 8:36 PM, May 2, 2021 | Update: 8:36:PM, May 2, 2021

Dr P. R. Datta
The perpetual aim of education is to provide moral education that makes people competent & virtuous. Recently, I have written about the end goal of education is character. The return of character education is attributable due to the current societal crisis throughout the world. We witness a disturbing trend in society, including alarming rates of drug abuse, crimes, teenage pregnancy, social violence, suicides, disjointed family structure, lack of social values, racial conflicts, problems with the children’s disciplines, and the list goes on. It seems this becomes a natural social phenomenon in the era of rapid industrialisation and globalisation. While some of these social problems are not moral, there is a growing trends & perception of linking them to moral education in our educational institutions. We all accept that societal progress & prosperity comes through a good education that is well grounded in ethics and universal social values. Nonetheless, the current form of the modern education system fails to develop child’s and adolescent’s moral growth.

It is perceived and understood that, to a large extent, educational institutions especially schools are responsible for character education. Still, it seems to be a general ambiguity as to what this responsibility constitutes and how to implement such commitment in practice. Schools are the primary agent of social transmission & appear to be the most congruous vehicles to facilitate social change and build a nation with character. Thus, schools have a crucial role in building and equipping a child with the necessary intellectual, social, emotional, rational and moral resources and support in achieving goals in life guided by ethical principles. We talked about uprightness and moral education, character education or excellence in education. Did we address the issue of what constitutes moral education in the modern era?

How can we integrate the value components to make education righteous, enabling a child to become balanced, independent thinkers, reflective, and create a harmony between the good aspects of traditional and contemporary values? How can moral education make a child successful not only in quantitative terms but also in qualitative terms?

Moral education is a system or processes through which the relevant knowledge, skills, values, habits, attitudes and characters develop in children. The main focus of moral education is to develop children’s cognitive, affective, social and emotional behaviour, which are essential for righteous thinking, feelings and actions. A good moral education enables learners to become critical thinkers, curious, open-minded, self-reflective, autonomous, sceptical and searching for truth on the one hand. On the other hand, helping to build social values such as ethics, respect, responsibility and accountability, moral attachment in relationships, and disciplined. I firmly believe that moral education should focus on helping a child’s mental development both in qualitative and quantitative terms. An inclusive learning environment is necessary to improve and build children moral reasoning. The current approaches to the education system should not be only to restore traditional value-based education, instead of clarifying their current values and recognising universal principles on social values such as dignity, freedom, justice, ethics, respect to elder, intense bond with the families, relationship purity and peace.

Issues of self-control & cognitive capabilities of a child play a vital role in developing moral behaviour. In contrast, we recognise that the cognitive behaviours and attitude primarily guided by parents through their parenting practices, but in many cases, due to the parent & child’s hierarchical nature of relationships, hindrance such development in the child. Therefore, the formative role of schools become eminent in the moral reasoning development of the child. It is imperative; schools take a bold step to create an inclusive educational environment and policies to foster such behavioural patterns in the child.

Education must be viewed as a transformative agenda for society rather than depositing the educators’ dead knowledge in children’s minds. In the Marxist view, moral education enables pupils to analyse their actions & reflect critically on these actions. Thus, education is a means of emancipation of people. The schools are the secondary agent of social interactions. Therefore, it is the school’s responsibility in facilitating the development of learner’s moral judgement. Schools should create opportunities for all learners for interactions and discussion in an open environment. By applying critical pedagogy, schools should be building critical thinking. Every school has its cultural norms with set observance and ethical code to guide children’s behaviour at school and their relationships with others. The school culture represents the accumulation of individual values, norms, traditions and, in some cases, unwritten rules & assumptions.

Primary schools are the most critical place for the children as they spend an incredible amount of time at school. Therefore, schools have the astonishing power to influence child behaviour and create a moral mindset. Children’s minds are pure, clean and like a sponge. Their brains are working differently than an adult. Children are more receptive to the information transmitted upon them by an adult. Therefore, schoolteachers can play a more significant role in developing such moral attributes in children.

A traditional view of the teacher is the purveyors of knowledge: someone who dispenses information, tells, feeds, disseminates and teaches the subject matter. However, in the modern teaching arena, teaching is not merely sharing information or knowledge but also expressing values and attitudes. The role of the teacher is therefore multifaceted and diverse.

However, such role of teachers is changing due to the changes in sociocultural perspective. We all are facing a different social dilemma. Challenges are contrasting and, in many cases, complex. It is in this context that the role of the teacher needs to consider. The role of the teacher will require to reconceptualise and its focus to be broadened to cope and shape with present demand, especially in the early stages of education. Teachers can provide much of the attitudinal support and knowledge from which more motivated and informed career development may flow. These include support attitudes of personal mastery competence among learners. Reinforce the importance of formulating a positive attitude toward others and all aspects of social and professional life. The functions of the teacher acted out in concert with the conditions and characteristics of a teaching-learning environment-a sociocultural perspective on learning. School teachers are the first person a child encountered outside of parents. Therefore, teachers can impact a child’s behaviour more positively. A positive & comfortable relationship between teachers and children can enhance learners cognitive, social, emotional and moral skills easily.

A society should aspire to have an intelligent, wise, and ethically sound generation to contribute to national development & progress. Schools are the best place to create an environment where young minds are nurtured, developed, and empowered to build a shared commitment to support that aspiration. Schools have direct and indirect influences on children’s educational achievement: social cognitional and feelings, motivation and moral development. In the modern era, the concept of moral education to young people is a complex task for the school alone unless they are fully supported & guided by a robust national policy on moral education and parents. There are several things’ schools can do to create an environment for delivering an honest educational system at primary schools:

Develop a school-community broad consensus to ensure value norms are implemented. Without this consensus, it is too difficult for the schools to execute any educational programme. We had witnessed many instances when schools failed to achieve value norms. There are many cases when exam papers are leaked; students are cheating on an exam test, submitted plagiarised materials for the final assessment, disturbing behavioural patterns by the students at schools and beyond, unethical activities and bullying. When they are caught, and schools punish them, then parents come in to defend their children. In such a situation, we will not expect learners to take schools standards of integrity seriously. Therefore, it is vital to establish a robust and realistic school-community consensus by involving parents and community leaders. Schools should reconstruct their moral consensus by identifying a list of social values. Such articulation between schools and parents will boost school’s morale to uphold the values in preparing their learners.

More parents’ participation through formation of parents supports groups & participating moral, educational workshops and activities in today’s mobile structure where people are more isolated from each other’s. In many urban areas, we even do not know our neighbours very well. Therefore, schools could bring those parents to a shared platform to share our shared interest and values. Parents will feel more encouraged by discovering their shared values and common goals in preparing their children’s mindset. Parents can be encouraged to participate in parents’ groups, attend parenting courses, and various moral education-related workshops to use their good parenting skills in preparing their children’s. Parents should be encouraged to take part in school-wide values education effort. Several education concepts can be developed, such as resp0ecting others, how to build a relationship? Developing discipline, cooperative attitude and activities, caring attitude, charity activities etc.

Inclusive, positive and consensus-based school culture is paramount for developing moral education and children’s character. This is a systematic process and takes time for those schools and institutional leaders who wish to encourage and reinforce moral education. A community-wide consensus is vital in which school-parents come together to develop the expectations and set rules so that such value education can be executed adequately. Schools can influence the children’s moral development and uplift the school’s effectiveness and productivity. Both learners and educators are more encouraged and likely to succeed in a culture that promotes morality, ethics, discipline, respect, commitment, and focus on heuristic learning for all. Children are the backbone of the future national progress and prosperity.

The Writer is Executive Chair, Centre for Business & Economic Research, UK