Sunday, 30 September 2012

How do you teach life-skills and moral values in school?

I often wonder if it is not the inculcation of strong moral values and timeless etiquette in students that makes a school distinct from the run of the mill schools that we find all over the country! What is it that we look for in some of the best schools all over the country? True, the pass percentage at the twelfth board level is one important indicator of how well the school is doing in academics, but then, some of the best indicators of a good school become apparent many years after a student passes out of school! The first few questions that come to mind when we look at a decent, well mannered professional is his upbringing and the school he had gone to. Is it for this reason that Khushwant Singh’s Grandmother favored village school education over city school education, because of the fact that there were teachings of the scriptures in the former which were lacking in the latter?
The building of successful personalities includes the teaching of those timeless core values that make them respected in the larger society. These core values include respect for each other, respect for elders, punctuality, honesty, sincerity, a sense of fair-play, patience, obedience, respect for rules, an understanding of basic principles of humanity, love and respect for nature, wildlife, an understanding of how our actions and behavior have an impact on others, and a respect for the delicate web of social relations that bind us to the society. It is quite true that the parents are the first teachers who try to instil awareness for moral values in their children, but then this task is soon taken over by teachers when they start going to school.
The teaching of moral values is a highly debated topic, with many educationists insisting that you can’t teach moral values to students directly and formally, and they go on to suggest that moral values can only be taught through the setting up of examples by teachers. I however wonder, if students in primary classes might not perhaps be taught by their teachers about these timeless values more directly? It is at this tender and formative age that children can be taught moral values. Interesting lessons from different scriptures, lessons of bravery, and even examples from real life can prove invaluable in the formation of the child’s character. This teaching could also include reinforcing good behavior with praise and appreciation. In senior classes, literature lessons could include examples of heroism, courage, and these could be in the form of allegories and anecdotes!
If good education doesn’t mean the building of character, then it is a great failure! Ultimately, it is character that makes you noticed in the society, and a person with good manners, good etiquette is always held in due regard. Unfortunately, when we step out-doors, we often observe people trying to break queues, people who speak good English but who show an utter disregard for others, we notice a great deal of impoliteness, and foul language being used  by products of even highly acclaimed public schools! The recent increase in the number of cases of road rage and the tragic instances of grievous injuries could have been lessoned if the perpetrators of harm had learned to be patient in school. Rudeness and impoliteness can never be the traits of a successful person, and they cannot be an indication of economic status in the society. Politeness should never be mistaken for passiveness, fear, or even poor self esteem! In fact, politeness is the sign of good character, it is the trait of great men, it is the sign of culture, and an indicator of a strong family background! Politeness is about royalty!
Unfortunately, we can’t argue that we are like animals and we need to resort to violence to struggle in the society for survival! Man is distinct from animals, in that he is more rational and he knows the difference between right and wrong! Thus if man has to struggle for survival in this society, then it should be on the basis of the ethical values that he has been equipped with. Cut-throat competition, glitz, glam, and the pressure to achieve unrealistic goals has lead to our ignoring the importance of those timeless values that have been handed down to us from our fore-fathers!
Have we, then forgotten our responsibilities as educators to produce great thinkers and good characters in our obsession to create products that will be commercially viable in the corporate world? Do we need to send our children to finishing schools after passing class twelfth when we could have done the same in regular school? Can we afford to ignore teaching of values in schools because they don’t figure in the written assessments and don’t contribute to the marks we get in the final term? Shouldn’t we grade schools on the basis of the quality of education imparted by them in terms of character building and strength of values imparted by them? Or is it that we find it difficult to assess the quality of values being taught to students in schools? Have we forgotten that by ignoring the importance of inculcating moral values in our students, we are essentially ignoring the human element, and are instead training our students to perform well in written tests, and to be machines that are more efficient than others?

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