ACER eNews

Understanding values education

Teachers and students need to think more about the frameworks underpinning their values education, according to Emeritus Professor Brian Hill of Murdoch University, who delivered a keynote address Research Conference 2004 in Adelaide.

Referring to the values education packages adopted in schools, Professor Hill said busy teachers understandably welcome ready-made products, and many have been drawn to packages developed outside our school systems, and even outside Australia. "But what makes values hang together are larger world-views. No package is neutral. Many people using such materials are unaware of their ideological origins."

Professor Hill suggested opportunities could be built into the school curriculum for students to examine:

•  the logics and functions of pre-suppositional frameworks;

•  the assumption underlying the frameworks governing each of their school subjects; and

•  the religious (and 'anti-religious') frameworks that have been most influential.

The study of the logics and functions of frameworks call for a specific focus on philosophical issues and competencies, which do not have a natural home in the 'Key Learning Areas'.

"Australian state schools have been encouraged to factor the religious variable out of the curriculum, thereby leaving values education in free-fall. If a balanced education is our goal, this is counterproductive," Professor Hill said.

In addition to moral values, there are also other value domains: cognitive-intellectual, technical-vocational, political, economic, socio-cultural, physical-recreational, aesthetic, interpersonal-relational and religious-spiritual.

According to Professor Hill, educational values should be added to the list of value domains. This may relate to the subject matter taught, the methods used, or the kind of classroom climate created. Educational values are the priorities at the core of the school's mission.

"One of the obligations of the school is to clarify what these are for the benefit of all stakeholders, including teachers, parents and students," Professor Hill said.

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