Trevor Mallard Speech At UNESCO Seminars Launch
Launch of the UNESCO and Living Values Trust Values Education Seminars
Thank you for inviting me to launch this seminar series.
One of the four key questions listed on the brochure for the series is: Do we have a set of core values that guide the life of the school? I understand that this is one of the main issues you will be considering in these seminars and that you will follow it up with the other questions about expressing, stating, practising, teaching and learning values.
The New Zealand curriculum framework says that: Values are mostly learned through students' experience of the total environment, rather than through direct instruction. And we probably agree that some of what the total environment is teaching has little to do with collective responsibility, respect for others, respect for the law, tolerance, caring or compassion, non sexism, non racism, honesty, reliability. It is no wonder there is a new strong interest in values education.
Families, peers and the media have a strong influence on the developing values of young people. But schools and individual teachers within schools have an obligation to do everything they can to ensure that the values implicit and explicit in everything the school does promote the well-being of society. Whether we like it or not schools and teachers have a strong influence on the developing values of young people and they have that influence whether they plan to or not.
We have to acknowledge that all people live by a set of values and that there is certainly no such thing as value neutrality in education. At the same time schools reflect values in their community. These values include the whole wide range of political, social, economic, religious, ideological and cultural values.
It is not an easy thing to meet the obligation to include attitudes and values as an integral part of the New Zealand curriculum.
Everything a school does communicates something about values. The values of a school are apparent in its organisation, curriculum and discipline procedures and particularly in the relationships between teachers and students and teachers and parents. Even in schools that have explicitly documented their values there is quite often a bit of a mismatch between what they say they believe in and what they actually do day to day.
The implicit values education that comes from the way a teacher behaves, the way they speak to children, the kind of control they operate in their own classroom, what is sometimes referred to as the hidden curriculum cannot be overestimated. Whatever is planned in the formal curriculum, and whatever values are stated in school documents it is the extent to which this is supported by what actually goes on at school that will make the real difference.
For schools, the task of discussing and clarifying their values and making them public is a complex but important first task. There is a need to provide guidance for school boards and principals which will assist them to effectively articulate their values and develop clarity of vision before they develop programmes to explore and develop students personal values.
The New Zealand National Commission for UNESCO and the Living Values Trust are to be commended for taking the initiative of providing this series. The seminars will help schools with the process of discussing and clarifying their values and making them public before they develop programmes that help students explore and develop their own values. I take pleasure in declaring the seminar programme launched.