Moral key to unlock the treasure

23rd April 2004 at 01:00
The article "Pick your Philosopher" (TES, Wonder Years magazine, April 19) opens our minds to ways of thinking that can only help us all to remember the essential aim of education: "To nurture the growth of competent, caring, loving and lovable people."

In a turbulent and rapidly changing world, the call to educate morality in our young citizens has never been stronger. But how can this moral thread weave itself into our national strategy?

Perhaps it can be shaped and informed by the wealth of proven good teaching that already exists in the hearts, minds and practice of dedicated teachers in our British schools and from leading educators and countries around the world. Consider the evidence from three examples:

* The pioneering values-based curriculum at West Kidlington primary school, Oxford, that indicates that quality learning, moral education and the raising of standards can go hand in hand (Office for Standards in Education);

* A values-based primary school for local children in Kuwait established how 33 quality-based values learning indicators could identify and assess the nuts and bolts of high quality early childhood education with an ethical foundation. (Unesco); and

* Educating morality and the young citizen in China was established in 2001, to help educate and reaffirm family values. The results include an "appreciative inquiry" and moral values-based curriculum, designed by teachers and educators, that contains but is not dominated by measurable targets (Beijing institute of education and China national children's centre).

Common to these examples are positive and values-based learning environments, happier and morally-balanced children, the recognition of highly valued and trusted teachers, appreciation of the challenges that parents and educators face, higher standards, judgments based on understanding, a pioneering human spirit, and, in China, a booming economy in terms of human potential and financial returns.

When did we last have an honest dialogue in England about what we really value in education - the education of competent, caring, loving and lovable people - starting with ourselves? With initiative after initiative and target after target, do we forget that the human being with their inherent personality, character and creativity is the constant? If we are to set our moral compass, we may wish to reconsider the value of the treasure within and aim to nurture ourselves and the collection of natural gifts that are just waiting to emerge from the hearts and minds within us all. The philosophical, moral and practical choices are ours alone.

These may well be the wonder years!

Peter Williams Headteacher Lea junior school Grasmere Avenue, Slough

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