VALUES, “GOOD” CITIZENS AND AUSTRALIAN SCHOOLS

In some Australian states there are educational policies that explicitly state values for teachers to teach in their classes. One such example is New South Wales, the most populous Australian state, where the Values We Teach (1991) was a basic policy for all government schools until revised in 2004 to become Values in NSW Public Schools (NSW Department of Education and Training or DET). Both documents and subsequent government educational policy revolve around a set of core values that while general in nature also are associated with what may compose a “good” citizen. The revised version states that “ These values represent the aspirations and beliefs of the Australian community as a whole, including its concern for equity, excellence and the promotion of a caring, civil and just society. They are common to a range of secular and religious world-views and are found in most cultures” (Department of Education and Training, 2004, p. 3). In other words this set of core values is important for educating the young to become effective participants in society and “good” citizens in our community.

The core values identified in Values in NSW Public Schools (2004) are:

INTEGRITY: Being consistently honest and trustworthy.

EXCELLENCE: Striving for the highest personal achievement in all

aspects of schooling and individual and community action, work and life-long learning.

RESPECT: Having regard for yourself and others, lawful and

just authority and diversity within Australian society and accepting the right of others to hold different or opposing views.

RESPONSIBILITY: Being accountable for your individual and community’s

actions towards yourself, others and the environment.

COOPERATION: Working together to achieve common goals, providing

support to others and engaging in peaceful resolution of conflict.

PARTICIPATION: Being a proactive and productive individual and group member, having pride in and contributing to the social and economic wealth of the community and the nation.

CARE: Concern for the wellbeing of yourself and others,

demonstrating empathy and acting with compassion.

FAIRNESS: Being committed to the principles of social justice and

opposing prejudice, dishonesty and injustice.

DEMOCRACY: Accepting and promoting the rights, freedoms and

responsibilities of being an Australian citizen. (DET, 2004, p. 3)

What happens with these values? In New South Wales government schools [and even more so in NSW non-government schools as almost all have a religious base] teachers are expected to teach this limited range of values that have been deemed in the public good. “Public schools teach values, including the values that underpin learning. Public schools also provide students with opportunities to explore the values that lie behind diverse community attitudes to political issues and social concerns. Values are taught explicitly in classrooms and through the activities and relationships of the school and its community. In schools, core values influence how people communicate, work together and make decisions. They are reflected in the policies and procedures of schools and the Department” (DET, 2004, p. 2).

In New South Wales (NSW) classrooms teachers address values both explicitly and implicitly. They may also address the values in the hidden curriculum by transforming the associated learning into the overt curriculum (Print, 1993). In providing directions to NSW teachers the document Values in NSW Public Schools (2004) suggests that “Teachers make values more explicit by including strategies that highlight the core values in their lessons. Discussing the meaning of core values as they occur helps students to develop their understanding of these values and how they operate in a variety of contexts” (DET, 2004, p. 4).

Typically teachers address values every day in their classrooms, many of which are consistent with and contribute to preparing a “good” citizen. Other values that might be taught, such as the pursuit of excellence, healthy lifestyle and respect for work, may be tangentially related to “good” citizens. How then might countries, and specifically their curriculum agencies, educate the young through values education programs in schools? One approach to examining how countries might prepare the young to become “good” citizens is to identify the values education program / curriculum that school students experience.

 
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