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Ethics and values are the spirit of education

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Ranjit Podder :
Lack of values practices in Bangladesh education system as well as other institutions has become a huge concern for the conscious and patriotic citizens of the country. The question may arise - what are values in education? Why are practising values in educational institutions important? How are values practised in the educational institutions of other countries? How can Bangladesh education system can be made transformed where there will be opportunities for practising values? What benefits would be there if values are properly practised in the educational bodies?  Many more questions like these can be asked regarding ethics and values in education. Let's be familiar with the ingredients of values in a society. Values are some characteristic features of the people of a country - how they behave with others; how they think; integrity in their everyday life activities; how their attitudes are - positive or negative, etc. Values can be termed as the consistent spirit of love and respect for people at home, educational institutions, and in other places; positive response to the needs of the surrounding people, and so on. Values attach immense importance to the positive feeling in pluralism and internationalism which entreat people to think and feel that "I am not alone in the society; and every activity of mine has, direct or indirect, impact on others' lives".
Values in education is so important that they help people to grow in a way we consider ideal; I mean, values practices form the behavioural patterns of the citizens as per the expectations of the state. Every country has got national philosophy which the state tries to follow throughout education system - through practising them in schools, colleges, and in the universities. If the those values are practised during the early years of one's life, they are believed to be firm and lasting throughout the whole life and as a result the state gets an honest, respectful, patriotic, and sincere nation which always is positive in every activity of life. On the contrary, if the education of a country is devoid of ethics and values, most people of that country become ill-mannered, illogical, dishonest which make others' lives troublesome. Values are important as lack of values gives birth to corruptions, dishonesty, chaos, and indiscipline in the society as well as in the state. The Japanese are considered as a modest nation because of their reasonable and kindhearted behaviours. The Japanese school children have to clean their schools every day for twenty minutes and this habit of theirs is naturally applied outside the schools too; and by practising this, they become reasonable in their behaviours. Through continuous practices, their habits become lasting and the children continue to do the similar activities when a situation arises. The reflection of this dignified cleaning habit is manifested in the last world cup football 2018 where they cleaned the playground even though they were defeated by Belgium. In Hora Hora School in New Zealand, honesty, trust, loyalty and compassion are developed through continuous practices as these are considered valuable areas of ethics and values practices. Of course, the teachers manifest these virtues through their activities in and outside the schools. Alongside practising the mentioned virtues, respect for others, and their culture and opinions are valued and nurtured deliberately. The students of the school in Japan and New Zealand are also engaged in activities that develop in them a love for the environment, self-esteem, positive attitudes towards learning and societies.  
The persons who think about the quality of education and the future of the country are worried about the decaying state of values in the younger people in the country. This decay of values is also observable in the adults of all spheres of the society. Sensing the degradation, Bangladesh government has taken some initiatives such as including religious and moral education as a compulsory subject, set some objectives in the Bangladesh primary and secondary curricula 2012 which are expected to improve the situation if implemented properly. Because of lack of awareness and because the attitudes of some teachers and education administrators, what we practice is far away from the mentioned virtues and curriculum expectations. For example, a good number of teachers are not sincere in performing their duties to the institutions as well to the students. Students may accrue bad practices from the said kinds of teachers impacting their whole lives. It is learnt from students that some head teachers and some principals arrive at the institutions much later than the start time of the institutions. What message are the students getting from them? There are some teachers who stealthily tell their students who receive private tuition the questions that have been set in the test (question paper). This is a fraudulent activity and students may learn deception from this kinds of teachers. Another serious thing that goes straight against values is the practice of memorizing answers, paragraphs, essays, etc. written by others and getting higher grades or marks. When memorizing something and reproducing it in the examination scripts or in assignments without recognition is considered as plagiarism or intellectual theft in the renowned schools, colleges, and universities of the world, some of our teachers directly or indirectly promote it by awarding higher grades for the memorized answers. We are not totally against memorization; students are encouraged to memorize the times table (multiplication table), psalms from religious books, songs, important lines of a poem, proverbs, etc.
Monzoor Ahmed, Professor Emeritus (BRAC University), has asserted in round table conference that the prime aim of education system of a country is to instill ethics and values in the learners but unfortunately it is not the case in Bangladesh as the education system is corrupted and politicized. Mr Tapon Kumar Das from CAMPE claimed that they have been campaigning to incorporate a sense of peace and values in the education system. BRAC and CAMPE jointly conducted a research country-wide in 2017 and identified the core areas of ethics and values practices in the educational institutions and responsibilities of persons and organizations. The identified are areas include personal beliefs about ethics and values as a human being; interpersonal relationships; responsibility as a member of the community, society, and the nation; responsibility as a global citizen; building a just and democratic society; protecting environment and the planet; gender justice, norms, and attitudes; attitude towards children; and actions to uphold ethics and values. The mentioned areas themselves indicate where we need to focus on during ethics and values practices. Although all individuals and organizations are responsible for improving the ethics and values situation in the country, teachers' active roles can be considered more important as, till today, most students believe and obey their teachers more than anyone else in the society.
If we really want to instill values in our children, ethics and values practices should be started with the teachers as well as the parents since the teachers and the parents have powerful influences on the younger children. If this practice starts, it will permeate into others gradually. It is not possible to instill values in the students isolated unless teachers and others around them practice the mentioned values. It should be started with the primary students first and the flow should be continued with other students of higher levels. For that reason, a well-motivated group of teachers will be required; and through rigorous training and oath taking, teachers can be prepared.  
The number of students who are not behaving properly is big; some of them are engaged in the unethical activities without hesitation; and some of them cannot differentiate between the right and the wrong. Intensive practices of values in the identified areas may help get rid of the existing situation. Practising the values in every activity is better than telling students about the values and how they would follow path of morality and values. Hope, the teachers of all levels would be trained and motivated to practise the values in their lives and instilling values in students through teaching-learning and other everyday life activities. For their own benefit, parents should also start practising values at home so that younger generation can grow morally.

(The writer is Associate Professor currently posted at Govt. Teachers' Training College, Dhaka.)

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