Teaching moral values in diverse classrooms There is a gradual moral deterioration in school systems worldwide
Teaching moral values in diverse classrooms
There is a gradual moral deterioration in school systems worldwide, which is also described as “moral crisis” (Javed et al., 2014; Figen, 2012; Amollo, & Lilian, 2017; Kuhar, & Zobec, 2017; Njoku, 2016). The decline of moral values is represented by increased juvenile delinquency, violence on campus, drug addiction and teenage pregnancy, and creates a great threat to society (Njoku, 2016).
According to Javed et al. (2014), moral values are a set of rules and standards defined by a particular society or community, which can guide individual’s choices and behaviours. Moral values are shaped by socio-cultural context (Davis, ; Bergen, 2011; Barraza, 2015; Javed et al., 2014), school ethos, curricula and personal experience (Javed et al., 2014; Barraza, 2015), interactions (Javed et al., 2014) and technology (Njoku, 2016; Davis, ; Bergen, 2011; Jasmi et al., 2017; Cowie et al., 2017).
Moral values improve the sustainability of democracy (Fraser-Burgess, 2010), as well as social justice (Davis, ; Bergen, 2011). Moral values also help individuals deal with dilemmas (Barraza, 2015; Javed et al., 2014), and become an active citizen (Figen, 2012; Amollo, ; Lilian, 2017). For students, high moral standards can enhance their academic attainment and develop their communication skills (Amollo, ; Lilian, 2017), whereas the decline in moral values disrupts school systems (Barraza, 2015).
With the rise of diversity in society, an increase of moral conflicts is observed in school systems during the past few years (Cowie et al., 2017; Fraser-Burgess, 2010; Davis, ; Bergen, 2011). For example, xenophobic incidents are increasing prominently in British schools, with 11% of all Islamophobic incidents happening in public schools (Cowie et al., 2017). In Austria, the Initiative for Valuable Sexual Education, which is an organization supported by concerned parents, protested against sex education in Austrian schools in order to withdraw gender topic from books (Amollo, ; Lilian, 2017). Although different values collide in rapidly diversifying schools and present a challenge for moral education, research on the moral clash in schools is still lagging behind. In order to ensure the quality of moral education, it is necessary to question what barriers exist to teach moral values in diverse classrooms. The solutions for overcoming those barriers also need to be discussed.
There are instructional, structural, and attitudinal barriers inside schools, such as education policy, the neglection of moral values in the curriculum, the lack of resources and teachers’ resistance and stereotypes.
Political liberalism, which is problematic in its treatment of different cultures, has a huge impact on education policy (Fraser-Burgess, 2010). The moral clash between school life and home has become a pervasive issue in the world, such as Muslim students and Jewish students in Nigeria (Nwanaju, U., 2016), Gypsy children in Turkey (Gülnihal, & Bilgehan, 2018) and American Indian and Alaska Native students (Zeichner et al., 2015). According to Fraser-Burgess (2010), political liberalism requires a public sphere that is ruled by common rules. Students have to participate in public reasoning based on a common ground rather than their own backgrounds. Students are forced to differentiate themselves from their minority groups and transcend their group identities. The process of alienation can generate conflicts between students and teachers.
Teachers have to struggle with the structural barriers in many countries, for example, Mexico (Amollo, & Lilian, 2017), Kenya (Barraza, 2015) and Pakistan (Javed et al., 2014). Moral values are disconnected from curricula and assessments (Amollo, & Lilian, 2017), and the resources for teaching ethic are severely insufficient (Javed et al., 2014; Barraza, 2015). Teachers are required to focus on students’ academic performance rather than moral development, which leads to the decline of moral values in school systems (Amollo, ; Lilian, 2017).
Besides the problem of curricula and resources, teachers’ own resistance and stereotypes also can be a barrier to teach moral values. Fraser-Burgess (2010) claimed that the white majority is generally reluctant to acknowledge the cultural aspects of its identity and consider its identity as a common ground. They are likely to treat unfamiliar minority’s problems as private matters since they are not based on the common ground. Moreover, Cowie et al. (2017) also found that stereotypes can be enhanced by media representation, leads to the normalization of xenophobic behaviours in the UK. Thus, raising the awareness of teachers’ own resistance and stereotypes is necessary. Education policy, the disconnection from curricula, limited resource and teachers’ resistance are the barriers to effective moral teaching in schools.
Barriers also exist outside schools, such as social barrier, economical barrier, cultural barrier, ethnic barrier and technological barrier that can create conflicts in the teaching of moral values.
The gap between parenting strategy and moral education in school is a barrier to teach moral values. Not only teachers but also parents are involved in students’ moral development. The moral atmosphere at home has a strong influence on students’ moral values (Fraser-Burgess, 2010; Barraza, 2015; Javed et al., 2014; Davis, ; Bergen, 2011; Amollo, ; Lilian, 2017). Parents’ cultural identity, ethnicity, social class and religion can be reflected in students’ moral values, which may be unfamiliar to teachers (Javed et al., 2014; Ersoy, 2012). Parents may resist moral education in schools because it is against their own value system. For example, parents forced some public primary schools to withdraw books that included family diversity in Italy (Amollo, ; Lilian, 2017). Conversely, the moral education may threaten the value system of parents, such as the erosion of moral values of indigenous people in Mexico (Meyer, M., 2016). Moreover, previous research shows that teachers have difficulties in teaching citizenship to the students from low socio-economic status families (Davis, ; Bergen, 2011). Without enough resources and educational background, parents’ moral explanations differ from schools’, which causes the learning difficulty in students.
Apart from the family, the popularity of virtual communities among students also creates a challenge for teachers. Young people frequently participate in electronic communities, such as blogs, Facebook, Myspace and Twitter. (Davis, ; Bergen, 2011). Community members’ moral emotions, moral behaviours and moral reasoning can be both positively and negatively affected by online communities (Davis, & Bergen, 2011; Jasmi et al., 2017; Cowie et al., 2017). Negative effects of virtual communities are lack of responsibility, aggressive behaviours, cheating and the reduction of sympathy (Davis, & Bergen, 2011), which are problematic to teachers. Students’ moral values reflect the complicated environment around them. Increased diversity in society has a huge impact on moral education in schools. Not only diverse families in which students grow up but also diverse virtual communities that students take part in can generate challenges for teachers.
Barraza (2015)’s study found that dominant pedagogical approach, methodological tools, the number of resources available and the style of teacher-training all contribute the differences in moral reasoning between Mexican pupils and British pupils. Thus, in order to overcome aforementioned barriers, appropriate education policy, effective teaching methods, sufficient resources and teachers’ positive attitude are necessary.
Fraser-Burgess (2010) indicated that moderate pluralism which aims at building trust between different cultural groups is more appropriate for a diverse society. Teachers need to explain the reasons for beliefs and how certain group comes to believe. The teaching process involves an exchange of explanations for moral values. Valuing the experience of students with different backgrounds can be beneficial to unbiased moral reasoning. Both teachers and students have to acknowledge their own resistance and manage to “understand others as they understand themselves” (Nwanaju, 2016, p.166). Various factors can cause the differences in moral values between different groups, such as religion, philosophy, customs and traditions, which may cost time to prepare. Overcoming resistance is another challenge for teachers.
Student-centered moral lessons are crucial to moral education (Barraza, 2015; Amollo, ; Lilian, 2017). The tragedy of the 2017 Grenfell Tower fire disaster in the UK. is a powerful evidence to show that a strong moral response can still be triggered in a diverse society (Cowie et al., 2017). Practical activities and authentic experience are essential to students’ moral engagement (Barraza, 2015; Amollo, & Lilian, 2017). Activities need to be designed to provide students with more opportunities to be exposed to controversial moral issues (Barraza, 2015). Teachers act as “consultants” for such learning (Barraza, 2015, Amollo, & Lilian, 2017). Both designing practical activities and providing consultations require abundant knowledge and creativities. Therefore, teachers need to develop their teaching skills and broaden their knowledge. School administration also need to aware the importance of moral education and provide teachers with sufficient resources, materials and opportunities to learn.
Concerning the influence form individuals and groups outside schools, teachers have to cooperate with family, community and wider society (Jasmi et al., 2017; Cowie et al., 2017; Cherkowski et al., 2015). The importance of moral education needs to be emphasized to raise public awareness. The collaboration between teachers and wider society can enhance students’ sympathy for others (Cowie et al., 2017), develop more resources (Cherkowski et al., 2015) and maximize prosocial aspects of technology (Jasmi et al., 2017). Although a certain level of values alignment is necessary for effective collaboration, how to achieve the alignment between school, family, community and wider society needs to be further explored.
In addition, despite the pressure from concerned parents and social organizations, avoiding controversial issues is a risky decision (Nwanaju, 2016; Amollo, ; Lilian, 2017). Leaving students unprepared for controversial moral issues may cause great social problems in the future. Evidence shows that religion can lead to social disruption if it is mishandled, especially in a multi-cultural society (Amollo, ; Lilian, 2017). Although resisting the pressure from parents and organizations is a challenge for educators, it is worth making the effort to prepare students for the future. Moderate pluralism, moral engagement, authentic activities as well as collaboration with wider society are necessary for teaching moral values in diverse classrooms.
Conclusions and Future Study
The purpose of this research is to figure out the obstacles to moral education in a diverse society and the solutions of it. The obstacles exist both inside schools, such as education policy, the structure of curricula, lack of resources and teachers’ own backgrounds, and outside schools, such as parenting and online communities. Building the platform for mutual-trust and mutual-understanding, student-centered learning experience and support from wider society can help teachers overcome those barriers.
However, personal experience, media and peers also need to be taken into account. Moreover, how to teach students from a particular minority group in a specific country needs to be questioned in order to develop a more detailed teaching method in the future.