Understanding the pleasure gained from giving as well as receiving is one of the ingredients the inspectorate wants to see in a good course of personal and social development (PSD).
"The capacity to enjoy and share success and respond constructively to setbacks" is another.
But in its report on personal support for pupils (TESS, July 2), HMI said these positive features in developing youngsters' sense of themselves and good relationships with others were not always evident. And it adds that schools are being left too much to their own devices with insufficient national guidance.
The report noted that PSD showed more strengths than weaknesses in primaries and was good or very good in four-fifths of special schools. But it was only beginning to make improvements in secondaries, only a few of which had the full range of PSD programmes from Access to Advanced Higher.
Among the recommendations is that there must be a more coherent programme which allows pupils to study programmes of PSD from P1 to S6.
The inspectors found that one of the reasons for weaknesses in PSD, which some pupils are reported to describe as "mince", was "the extremely limited availability of coherent staff training programmes".
While primary staff had some opportunities to develop their PSD expertise, it often competed with other aspects of the curriculum and courses were largely confined to only one aspect of the programme. The best schools involved parents in alerting them to what their children would be studying, particularly on sensitive topics.
The report continues: "While HM inspectors found some good, even outstanding, practice in education for PSD in some Scottish schools, few mainstream schools had well-planned, comprehensive programmes which took full account of pupils' prior learning and ensured challenge for them."
The inspectorate adds that schools are facing difficulties because national guidance is vague. "Schools have often been working alone to develop courses, and to integrate specific aspects to be included in education for PSD, many of which overlapped with other areas of the curriculum.
"These include important aspects related to the national priorities, including equal opportunities, learning for life and citizenship. Staff also wish to include important aspects of PSD, such as the promotion of emotional education, handling stress, conflict resolution and anger management."
HMI says it hopes the review of the curriculum, expected to report in September, will offer a more productive future. The overlap between PSD, health education, citizenship and religious and moral education will have to be resolved.
Among other findings:
* citizenship - schools are not clear about its place in the curriculum, often restricting it to environmental studies in primaries and social subjects in secondaries;
* arrangements for pupils transferring from P7 to S1 were "patchy and variable";
* curricular advice and guidance was generally well organised;
* enterprise education encouraged pupils to work to a high level in some schools;
* Careers Scotland staff were beginning to draw up agreements with schools to make careers education more effective;
* guidance - increasingly important as the curriculum becomes more flexible and pupils' attendance at FE colleges grows.