Values education

Values education

Values education is a term used to name several things and there is much academic controversy surrounding it. [Robb, W M (1995) Some problems with values education and values in education.NAVET Papers, Vol. XIII.] Some regard it as all aspects of the process by which teachers (and other adults) transmit values to pupils. [Powney, J., Cullen, M-A., Schlapp, U., Johnstone, M. & Munn, P. (1995). "Understanding values education in the primary school." York: Reports Express. p.vii] Others see it as an activity that can take place in "any" organisation during which people are assisted by others, who may be older, in authority or more experienced, to make explicit those values underlying their own behaviour, to assess the effectiveness of these values and associated behaviour for their own and others' long term well-being and to reflect on and acquire other values and behaviour which they recognise as being more effective for long term well-being of self and others. [Robb, W M (1996) Values education for more effective moral education, religiouseducation, citizenship education, health education, sex education, environmentaleducation, alcohol education, multicultural education, and personal and social education. CAVE, Aberdeen.]

This means that values education can take place in the family home, schools, colleges, universities, offenders institutions and voluntary youth organisations. [Robb, W. (1996) Values education: the contribution of some voluntary youth organisations, CAVE, Aberdeen] There are two main and opposed approaches to values education. Some see it as inculcating or transmitting a set of values which often come from societal or religious rules. Others see it as a type of Socratic dialogue [Minnis, F (1991) Socrates for six-year-olds. Booklet accompanying the BBC programme of the same title. BBC, London.] where people are gradually brought to their own realisation of what is good behaviour for themselves and their community.

Very little research has been done on values education and fewer attempts to train teachers and youth workers on how to faciltate values education classes. [Selmes, C S G and Robb, W M (1996a) (Eds) Values and teacher education Volume1. CAVE, Aberdeen.] [Selmes, C S G and Robb, W M (1996b) (Eds) Values and teacher education Volume2. CAVE, Aberdeen.]

It can be an educational subject or an approach to education applied to the whole or parts of the curriculum, or indeed the whole school ethos. However, there is some uncertainty about how values education could be injected throughout a curriculum and how it would be incorporated into the whole school ethos.


There has been very little reliable research on the results of values education classes but there are some encouraging preliminary results. [Saterlie, M E (Chair) (1988) 1984 and beyond: a reaffirmation of values. A report ofthe task force on values education and ethical behavior of the Baltimore CountyPublic Schools. Board of Education of Baltimore County, Towson, Maryland.] [Robb, W M (1994) Values education: can it alleviate social problems? CAVE,Aberdeen.]

This means that there are many definitions. One definition refers to it as the process that gives young people an initiation into values, giving a knowledge of the rules which function in this mode of relating to other people and to seek to develop in in the student a grasp of their underlying principles, together with the ability to apply these rules intelligently, and to have the settled disposition to do so [David Aspin (2000) However, the meaning of "initiation into values", "mode of relating to other people", "apply intelligently" and a "settled disposition" needs to be clarified. It is also useful to point out that values education can be conducted with people of any age. A clarification of some key terms in values discussions, in M. Leicester, C. Modgil & S. Modgil (Eds.), "Moral education and pluralism: Education, culture and values" (Vol. 4, p.171-180). London: Farmer Press. [] ] Some researchers use the concept values education as an umbrella of concepts that includes moral education and citizenship education [Cheng, R. H. M., Lee, J. C. K. & Lo, L. N. K. (2006). Values education for citizens in the new century: meaning, desirability and practice. In R. H. M. Cheng, J. C. K. Lee & L. N. K. Lo (Eds.), "Values education for citizens in the new century" (pp.1-35). Sha Tin: The Chinese University Press.] [Mei-lin Ng, M. (2006). Valuation, evaluation, and value education – On acquiring the ability to value: A philosophical perspective. I R. H. M. Cheng, J. C. K. Lee & L. N. K. Lo (Eds.), "Values education for citizens in the new century" (pp.49-66). Sha Tin: The Chinese University Press.] [Taylor, M. (2006). The development of values through the school curriculum. R.H.M. Cheng, J.C.K. Lee & L.N.K. Lo (Eds.), "Values education for citizens in the new century" (pp.107-131). Sha Tin: The Chinese University Press.] Themes that values education can address to varying degrees are character, moral development, Religious Education, Spiritual development, citizenship education, personal development, social development and cultural development. [Taylor, M. (1994)] Robb [Robb, W M (1996) Values education for more effective moral education, religious education, citizenship education, health education, sex education, environmental education, alcohol education, multicultural education, and personal and social education. CAVE, Aberdeen] takes this one step further and sees values education at the heart or many of the so called "educations". He points out that very little work has been done to define exactly what all these "educations" are and what they are supposed to achieve.

There is a further distinction between explicit values education and implicit values education [Cox, E. (1988). Explicit and implicit moral education. "Journal of Moral Education, 17," 92-97] [Halstead, J. M. (1996). Values and values education in schools. I J. M. Halstead, & M. J. Taylor (Eds.), "Values in education and education in values" (pp.3-14). London: The Falmer Press.] where:
* "explicit values education" is associated with those different pedagogies, methods or programmes that teachers or educators use in order to create learning experiences for students when it comes to value questions.
* "Implicit values education" on the other hand covers those aspects of the educational experience that results from explicit values education.This discussion on implicit and explicit raises the philosophical problem of whether or not an unintentional action can be called education. Similarly one should clarify the distinction between a teacher and an educator.

Objectives of Values Education

The objectives for values education depend on the people who claim to be doing the values education. Religious people will want to impart their specific set of values. People with a particular social perspective (socialist or capitalist) will want to impart socialist or capitalist values. However, there is a growing realisation that the underlying purpose of values education is to help people to behave more responsibly.

There is also a growing realisation that values education should not be about inculcating or imparting a pre-determined set of values but to expose those values which transcend religious and social perspectives. [Robb, W. Values education as a better way to develop responsible behaviour,] For example, some religious groups object to homosexuality and therefore the religious values of those sects are not good for bringing out responsible behaviour towards others.

As many societies of the world have become heterogeneous with respect to religious belief and more secular, to stem the resulting moral relativism, Values education has been found to be a more effective way of teaching spiritual, moral, social and cultural development, than promoting any particular religious tradition. There is still much work to be done in defining what we mean by spiritual development, moral development, social development and cultural development and how all these developments relate to one another.

Values Education as the Commonality in Many "Educations"

There is some evidence that values education is at the heart of many other so-called "educations". Robb [Robb, W M (1996) Values education for more effective moral education, religious education, citizenship education, health education, sex education, environmental education, alcohol education, multicultural education, and personal and social education. CAVE, Aberdeen] produces a diagram the shows how many of the educations have two parts - a factual part and a values clarification part. If this finding is supported by other reasearchers it has far reaching implications for education. For example, if the purpose of all the educations is basically the same why not just have the one subject but vary the factual content from week to week? If the "educations" are about changing behaviours, then surely the factural content should be "sent" back to be taught under the auspices of the original subject (biology, chemistry or sociology)so that more time can be spent on tackling the tougher behavioural and emotional issues?

Values education as moral education

Morals as socio-legal-religious norms are supposed to help people behave responsibly. However not all morals lead to responsible behaviour. Values education can show which morals are "bad" morals and which are "good". The change in behaviour comes from wrestling with questions about right and wrong. [Sharp, A M (1984) Philosophical teaching as moral education. Journal of Moral Education, Vol 13, No 1.] [Rowe, D and Newton, J (1994) You, me, us! Social and moral responsibility for primary schools. Citizenship Foundation, London.] [Lipman, M (1987) Ethical reasoning and the craft of moral practice. Journal of Moral Education, Vol 16, No 2.] [Fisher, R (1994) Moral education and philosophy in schools. NAVET Papers Vol X.]

Values education as religious education

Religions ask their followers to follow sets of values. If you adhere to the values you are a good person, if not you are a bad person. Values education asks people to start with a completely open mind and evaluate which religious values are really helpful and which not.

Values education as citizenship education

One can know all the legal and procedural rules of citizenship but this is usually not enough to help people act responsibly.

Values education as health education

Health education seems to have overlaps with sex education and alcohol education - it is a matter of values.

Values education as sex education

There are claims that knowing how to use a condom and other kinds of contraception does not stop teenagers getting pregnant or experiencing the emotional pain of early sexual relationships. Values shape what we do and values education strives to get young people to refrain from early sexual activity and for all people to show respect for partners, not because they have been told to but because they see it as the right thing to do. [Robb, W. What's wrong with Sex education?]

Values education as drugs education

Knowledge of what various drugs look like, how they are manufactured and the effects they have on the mind and body is not enough, some say, to help youngsters resist peer pressure and help adults resist the temptation to escape a humdrum existence. There is evidence that traditional drugs education encourages more drug taking. [Robb, W. Why drugs education won't work.]

Values education as alcohol education

One can know all there is to know about the different kinds of alcohol, how it is made, how many units one should drink and how it damages one's body, but this will not be enough to help people drink responsibly.

Values education as multicultural education

Multicultural education strives to get people to behave responsibility towards others of a different culture to ones own. We have laws to try and prevent racial discrimination, race-based crimes and racial abuse because a few people choose to ignore human values of decency and respect for others' cultures. Values education facilitates an open and honest discussion and brings people to their own realisation of how to behave well towards all others.

Values education as personal and social education

The content of courses in PSE can vary from school to school but the intention is to assist people to behave more responsibly in personal relationships and in society generally. However, from the little research that has been done on this, the content seems to be merely factual. As a result young people are not confronted with the emotional choices and questions which can bring them to a realisation of the values which would help them, and hence others lead more fulfilling lives.

Values education and teacher education

There is very little work been done on training teachers on how to facilitate values education classes. The problem is that most teachers are taught how to instruct, whereas values education requires a methods that extracts or brings up from experience the "best answers". Selmes and Robb have made a modest start at documenting some teacher training attempts. [Selmes, C S G and Robb, W M (1996a) (Eds) Values and teacher education Volume 1. CAVE, Aberdeen.] [Selmes, C S G and Robb, W M (1996b) (Eds) Values and teacher education Volume 2. CAVE, Aberdeen.] Cross has also made an attempt. [Cross, M (1995) Values education: a staff development manual for secondary schools. Framework Press, Lancaster.]

Multinational School-based Values Education Schemes

Living Values Education Programme (LVEP)

This project of worldwide proportions initiated by the new religious movement called the Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University incorporates twenty-two values (quality, unity, peace, happiness, hope, patience, caring, humility, simplicity, trust, freedom, co-operation, understanding, honesty, appreciation, courage, love, friendship, thoughtfulness, tolerance, responsibility and respect) [Farrer, F. (2000) A Quiet Revolution: Encouraging Positive Values in Our Children (London, Rider). p.35] and has formed the basis of the whole-school ethos approach in schools such as West Kidlington Primary School, Kidlington whose head master Neil Hawkes and Values education coordinators Linda Heppenstall are both Brahma Kumari followers ['The ethics girls and boys of West Kidlington Primary'. The Independent, (London), Feb 18, 1999 by Frances Farrer] ['Researching a New Interface between Religions and Publicly Funded Schools in the UK'. Eleanor Nesbitt, Elisabeth Arweck, Warwick Religions & Education Research Unit (WRERU), Institute of Education, University of Warwick, Coventry, UK] . The LVEP website lists 54 countries where values education projects are undertaken. [ (accessed 27 February 2008)] Some question the approach of having a list of values to inculcate. For example, a bank robber has courage, co-operates with fellow criminals and is responsible in making sure the get-away car is there on time. There is more to values education, it seems, than just preparing a list of values and convincing people to live by them.

athya Sai Education in Human Values (SSEHV)

Initiated by Sathya Sai Baba it uses five key values (Truth (Sathya), Right Conduct (Dharma), Peace (Shanthi), Love (Prema) and Non-violence (Ahimsa) [Auton, J. (1997) Education in Human Values: Manual for Schools (Prasanthinilayam, India, Sai Towers), p.8] and now has projects in more than thirty-three countries. Recently SSEHV has changed its name to 'Educare'. Some researchers question the approach of having a list of values to follow. For example, why are only five values chosen as key? Are there not instances when one should not tell the truth. Similarly, if someone sees a young child being attacked by a thug, shouldn't that someone use violence to protect the child?

World Peace Ethics Contest (World-PEC)

This project based in Buddhist values and supported by the Dhammakaya Foundation started in 1982 in Thailand as an annual values quiz contest. The aim of the project is to bring children’s ethical development to higher levels resulting in positive behavioral changes in a way that is relevant to those of all nationalities, races and religions. The 'Path of Progress' is based on a textbook [Dhammakaya Foundation (2005) "A Manual of Peace" (Bangkok: Dhammakaya Foundation)] of the thirty-eight values of Mangala Sutta. The number of participants started with 382 in 1982 and rose in 2002 to four million from 13,000 educational institutes — ranging from kindergartens, universities, police and military colleges — students and teachers alike from all over Thailand. The winners of the contest receive plaques of distinction from H.M. the King Bhumibol Adulyadej and representatives of many international organizations. Besides honorary plaques, winners are granted scholarships and certificates for their success in each category. In 2007 the scheme was renamed the 'World Peace Ethics Contest' (World-PEC) and extended to the general public of sixty nationalities in five languages with 5,000,000 participating in Thailand and 10,000 outside Thailand. In 2008 the scheme was extended additionally to bilingual schools in Thailand and to the general public worldwide in seven languages. Educationists will question on what grounds the thirty-eight values were selected and the practical steps taken to "bring children’s ethical development to higher levels". Additionally, more clarity will be needed on just what the positive behavioral changes are that are "relevant to those of all nationalities, races and religions".

Character Education

Character education is an umbrella term generally used to describe the teaching of children in a manner that will help them develop as personal and social beings. However, this definition requires research to explain what is meant by "personal and social being". Concepts that fall under this term include social and emotional learning, moral reasoning/cognitive development, life skills education, health education; violence prevention, critical thinking, ethical reasoning, and conflict resolution and mediation. Lickona (1996) mentions eleven principles of successful character education. [Lickona, T. (1996) Eleven Principles of Effective Character Education, The Journal of Moral Education, 25(1), pp. 93 - 100.] It seems to have been applied in the UK [Arthur, J., Deakin-Crick, R., Samuel, E., Wilson, K. & McGettrick, B. (2006) Character Education: The Formation of Virtues and Dispositions in 16-19 Year Olds with particular reference to the religious and spiritual(Canterbury, Canterbury Christchurch University).] and the United States [Lickona, T. (1992) Educating for Character: How our Schools Can teach Respect and Responsibility (New York, Bantam).]

Penn Resiliency Project (PRP)

The Penn Resiliency Program (PRP) is a school-based intervention curriculum designed by the University of Pennsylvania Positive Psychology Center to build resilience, promote adaptive coping skills, and teach effective problem-solving. A major goal of the study is to promote optimistic thinking to help children and adolescents respond to the daily challenges and problems that are encountered during the middle and high school years. The project has been applied at schools in the United States [Freres, D.R., Gillham, J. E., Reivich, K.J., & Shatté, A.J. (2002). Preventing depressive symptoms in middle school students: The Penn Resiliency Program. International Journal of Emergency Mental Health, 4, 31-40.] and in dozens of schools in the United Kingdom. [Layard, R. (2007) Happiness and the teaching of values Centre Piece (London, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE).] Some educationists will question what building resilience, promoting adaptive coping skills, teaching effective problem-solving and promoting optimistic thinking has to do with values education. For example, a bank robber could try five times to break into a bank, solve several problems in so doing and be optimistic about not being caught.

Examples of Values Education from around the world

Taylor [I M, Taylor (Ed.), "Values education in Europe: a comparative overview of a survey of 26 countries in 1993" (pp.1-66). Dundee: Scottish Consultative Council on the Curriculum.] gives a thorough overview of values education in 26 European countries.


The Australian Government currently funds Values education in its schools, with its own publications and funding of school forums on values education at all levels of education. [ [ Values Education | Values Homepage ] ] A conference on "Moral Education and Australian Values" was held in 2007 at Monash University. [ [ "Moral Education and Australian Values"Conference (Monash University) ] ]


Promotion of moral education by a large number of teachers in Japanese primary and junior high schools was reported in 1988 to be cautious because of fears of relapsing into pre-war style moral education [Cummings, W.K. & Gopinathan, S. & Yasumasa Tomodo (1988) "The revival of values education in Asia and the West" (New York, Pergamon) p.83] the subject remaining a controversial matter. ["ibid." p.91]


Lifewords runs Choose Life, a values education programme for Kenyan schools.


It is government policy for values education, good manners and right conduct to taught as part of the social studies curriculum (Makabayan) in Primary and High Schools. Arabic Language and Islamic Values Education (ALIVE) Program has also been introduced for the Moslem community by LVEP and by the Theosophical Society at Golden Link School. Values education is given as a choice of major in Bachelor of Secondary Education (BSE) in many Filipino Teacher Training colleges and at MA level at De La Salle University-Manila College of Education.


Teacher training institutions in Singapore all have curricula for learning to teach moral and civics education programmes - but students do not take these as seriously as they should due to lack of assessment. The reason has been said to be the lack of innovative teaching approaches such as the discourse pedagogy. [Thomas, E. (1992) Moral development, cultural context and moral education, In Chong,K.C. ed. "Moral Perspectives and Moral Education" (Singapore, University of Singapore Press)pp.47-68]


The Swedish educationalist Robert Thornberg is a well known writer on Values education. There was also a Centre for Values Education (VGC) at Umeå University until 30 June 2005.


In Thailand, values have traditionally been taught within the context of Buddhist religious education. Since 1982 there has been a revival of applied values as an extracurricular activity suitable for Buddhist, Moslem and Christian students alike to prepare Thai students for the effects of globalization [Kriengsak Chareonwongsakin (2006) “Values Education in Thailand: Preparation for Globalization, for the Academic Seminar for Values Education for Citizens in the New Century, pp. 319-345. Hong Kong: Hong Kong Institute of Educational Research, Chinese University Press] . Initiatives have been provided in the form of the 'Path of Progress' Ethics Quiz Contest and the World Peace Ethics Contest (World-PEC) which heirs from Thailand.

United Kingdom

Since 1988 the British government, although not recognising or calling it values education, has promoted and inspected values in the guise of spiritual, moral, social and cultural development (SMSCD) leaving the initiative to individual schools to decide how values education standards should be met. It is not clear whether there are standards of values education. It should be noted that the Government and state school systems have never called it "values education". Values education courses in Britain may be implemented in the form of government supported campaigns such as Social & Emotional Aspects of Learning (SEAL) [ [ The Standards Site: Social and emotional aspects of learning... improving behaviour… improving learning ] ] but are more often provided by local experts in the form of LVEPcite journal
last = Nesbitt
first = Eleanor
coauthors = A. Henderson
year = 2003
month = April
title = Religious Organisations in the UK and Values Education Programmes for Schools
journal = Journal of Beliefs and Values,
volume = 24
quote =
issue = 1
pages = 75–88
doi = 10.1080/1361767032000053015
] , SSEHV, Penn Resiliency or Character education.

One of the organisations taking a lead in promoting values education is CAVE, The Centre for Alleviating Social Problems through Values Education. CAVE is run by a leading expert in the field - Dr Bill Robb. [] The site is a resource with a number of free articles.

United States

Values education seems to be better known as Character education


SSEHV has set up the African Institute of Sathya Sai Education (TAISSE) in Ndola. Zambia is one of the countries in Africa involved in SSEHV's Value-based Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Education (VBWSHE) programme.


See also

* Values
* Socialisation
* moral philosophy
* ethics
* moral psychology
* educational psychology
* political philosophy
* sociology
* social psychology
* special education
* pre-school education
* Holistic education
* Emotional and behavioral disorders

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