Value education

Why ‘value education’ has become a tough task for schools

The role of schools as the reinforcer of common shared values is no longer relevant or possible in our increasingly heterogeneous society. Values systems now vary at the level of family in a school because urbanisation has created very mixed communities.

As such schools are increasingly in conflict with parents on what demeanours are socially acceptable and what are to be deemed irreverent. Besides, the teachers themselves may have different value profiles, further confounding the case of students and schools.

Let us go back into social history by a few decades, when a common set of values were supposedly well entrenched, to expose the underlying fundamentals of value enculturation.

A closer dissection of the value ecosystem up to a couple of decades in the past throws the following insights:

However, there was a subtle but far more compelling and ‘mind-numbing’ reason for values conformity across a community at local, regional and national level. It was the intellectual rigour that backed up values; the elaborate ‘intellectual regime’ of religion and social mores fuelled long and winding trek to values supremacy.

Indeed, the highest level of intellect, ‘stories’, reasoning and imagery behind the raison d’etre and compliance of espoused values ensured uncontested allegiance to values. Expectedly, the generic decline in the intellectual rigour in education, due to poorer language and mathematical achievement of students and the increasingly weaker academic background of those teaching, implies that the intellectual rigour in value education will be on a weaker foundation. In effect, value education in schools cannot be forceful enough.

a. Children grew up in an environment where the adults were values personified.
b. All the children in a community shared almost the same set of values.
c. The compliance ran deep – people would not even dream of alternate values.
d. The family and kinship were the prime drivers of values.
e. There were severe sanctions against violations.

Further, the emergence of soft parenting, nuclear and single parent family structure, absence of role model adults in the form of parents and teacher have exposed children to diverse and diverging set of values, which get compounded by the ubiquity of highly diverse digital media. This leads to children forming varied values and attitudes influenced by heterogeneously-valued peers rather than more homogenously-valued family members. Sooner than later, parents give up on whatever little value education they were driving home.

We need a ‘new religion’ to provide the foundation of new-age values and extensive conversations around them that involves all. We think that ‘environment protection, living in a global village, better quality of life for all, 24×7 intelligent digital imprints and increasingly rapid innovations in physical and social artefacts around us’ duly encapsulates the ‘new religion’ needed to support value education.

On the whole, home still largely remains the primary place for values inculcation. Traditionally, schools were part-reinforcer of the homogenous values shared by the students in school. In current times, children in schools represent diverse backgrounds and social values, thus schools cannot really bolster and support value education.

However, schools definitely have a bigger role to play in value education in the medium term, at the least. One of the ways in which homes and schools can effectively complement one another is to vertically split the value education domain to the traditional and ‘aspirational’ values. The traditional values could continue to be role-modelled and nurtured by parents and the ‘aspirational values’ are more appropriate for education in schools. This aspect is dealt with in detail in another question.

‘Education without values, as useful as it is, seems rather to make man a more clever devil.’

— C S Lewis

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