Parenting for the 21st Century - A Values-Based Approach

by Diane G. Tillman

This paper was presented at UNESCO's Education for the 21st Century Conference for the Asia-Pacific Region in Melbourne, Australia, March, 1998.

UNESCO Conference, Melbourne, Australia - Education for the 21st Century

In the Asia-Pacific Region - March 30 - April 1, 1998

Syndicate Session: Spiritual Values, Ethics; Moral Education

Parenting for the 21st Century - A Values-Based Approach - Living Values: An Educational Initiative

by Diane G. Tillman

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I think we all share the belief that Education for the 21st Century must include parents. We know that parents are children's first and most important teachers - and yet they seldom receive the training and support that allow them to be aware of the importance of their parenting actions, stay aware of children's needs, cope with the challenges of child-rearing, and become aware of the beauty of their own inner resources.

I believe in the power of the human mind and spirit. A project I was involved with in 1988, Global Cooperation for a Better World, reinforced a latent perception that each human being shares a vision of a better world, a vision of all we can be, all that we want to be. I'd like you to experiment for a moment - in your mind's eye imagine the world, as you would like it to be. Step into the 21st Century that you would like to create -- visualize the quality of the air, the environment, how you would feel. A family walks by, how do they look, what are their interactions like? As another family approaches, how do they interact? Think of yourself as a child, imagine a scene with your parents, and perhaps a brother or sister. Imagine yourself as a parent. Picture interacting with a child. What values do they have? What values you do have?

I think all parents have a dream of what they would like to be with their children -- as well as what they would like their children to be like! I am sure we could all cite many factors that lead to less than optimal parenting; the largest percentage of less than optimal parenting is simply a lack of awareness of the needs of children and ignorance of good parenting practices. Many parents have difficulty coping with the stresses of this world. Some inflict harm because of their own emotional functioning - often a reflection of their own history of abuse.

Traditionally, parent education has helped people be better parents and caregivers. In the parent groups I have led, caregivers report enjoying parenting more as they learn effective parenting skills and spend time playing with their children. They grow in confidence as parents. Many parents transfer learned skills to other relationships and evidence increased self-esteem as they are encouraged by their own ability to affect their life. For example, as they learn to active listen to a child or affirm a child's qualities, they discover the same skills improve adult relationships.

In recent years, I think two trends have especially increased the challenges of parenting: growing materialism and violence in films. Both have diverted time and focus away from traditional pastimes and the transmission of culture and spiritual values. I do not think we have yet recognized the profound influence of violence in films on youth. It sanctions inhumanity. It is time to look at what we are creating. Far too many people are distant from their emotional potential, and lack the social and emotional skills for peace and equality. To let the situation continue as is it, is to continue what we have now -- a world of injustice, inequity, and violence.

As we approach the 21st Century, we must tap into the creative energy and universal values that each human being holds within. Not only must we renew efforts to educate parents, but utilize their dreams for their children to facilitate the development of universal values -- providing an opportunity to look anew at what is important in their life, to reconnect with the values of their culture, explore attitudes to actualize those values, and skills to incorporate them in their child rearing practices.

The Parenting/Caregivers Module for Living Values: An Educational Initiative encourages parents and caregivers to look at how they provide their children with a philosophy of living, thereby facilitating their overall growth, development, and choices so they may integrate themselves into the community with respect, confidence, and purpose.

The Parenting/Caregivers Module includes learning effective parenting skills within a supportive group process, plus it adds an often-missing component: the exploration of values. Engendering effective parenting and increased well being is important, but if we are to attempt to go beyond intolerance and inequity in this world, more is required. In this program, parents are encouraged to explore their core values. As people explore values they glimpse the higher self within. As they discuss bringing those values into practice, they encounter their own wisdom. As parents recognize the importance of their own values, and understand that their behavior conveys more than words to their children, an opportunity to change opens. Another dimension comes into being as caregivers learn about and play the Values Activities for Children, and contribute their favorite childhood games and songs.

The Parents/Caregivers Module is part of the Educators' Kit of Living Values: An Educational Initiative. This Educational Initiative is a result of a cooperative partnership among global educators in consultation with the National Commission of UNICEF (Spain), representatives from the Education Cluster of UNICEF (New York), and the Brahma Kumaris. This experiential values education program has Values Activities for Children, Ages 2-7, Ages 8-14, and Young Adults. There is a special section for Parents/Caregivers and a Children-At-Risk/Refugees Module. It is currently being piloted in 57 countries at 220 sites. It focuses on twelve universal values: cooperation, freedom, peace, respect, happiness, honesty, humility, love, responsibility, simplicity, tolerance and unity.

In the LVEI Parenting classes, parents explore their dreams for their children, discuss what a chosen value means to them, build awareness about how children learn values, discuss their culture's methods, play values activities, and develop understanding and skills to use in imparting values to their children. In this paradigm, facilitators serve as models of acceptance and support in a small group setting and as sources of practical parental guidance as needed.

The Parenting/Caregivers Module is organized in three sections.

Section 1 -- The Group Process. The group process sets the tone and flow of values-based workshops. After the orientation session there is a Six-Step Framework for teaching values for ongoing sessions.

Section 2 -- Parent Values Activities. This section provides values-based content to be used during the group process. The Parent Values Activities complement and build upon the structured Values Activities for Children, which are designed for ages 2 through young adult.

Section 3 -- Parenting Skills. This section addresses common parental concerns and offers specific skills to deal with those concerns. Facilitators may choose to include this parenting skill building information as necessary, or include it in related values sections. For example, positively building behaviors through praise can be added to the groups exploring the value of respect.

In the Orientation Session in Section One, facilitators are encouraged to do introductions, perhaps have an icebreaker, and introduce the Living Values Educational Initiative. Then the facilitator engages the caregivers in a couple of exercises. This one seems effective in having people experience the importance of their own behavior: "As these meetings will be on values, I want to start by asking you all to think of someone who made a positive impact in your life. Has everyone thought of somebody?. . . Think back in time, and remember the scene and the interaction with that person . . . What value or quality did that person have that made a difference for you? . . . After they share, add, If everyone in the world had that quality, how would the world be a different place? . . . Why are these values you've mentioned so important?"

Each person within the group has to feel the group is relevant and each parent group has to establish its own identity; have them establish the values they wish to explore. Facilitators have them reflect on the values they mentioned and think about the values most important in their life. This time of building cohesion begins a foundation of mutual parent support as modeled by the facilitator.

The role of facilitator or group leader is key to setting the tone of the workshops. Accepting group members and providing positive affirmations and respect are necessary to make group members feel they are in a safe environment. Giving regard and appreciation for all comments is important not only to create a rich learning environment but also to deepen the parents' acceptance of and value for the self. Especially in an adult learning environment, it is essential to draw upon the experience of the participants and to allow them to assimilate the material through their own learning styles and frames of reference.

The following is a method to have the parents tune into their dreams. " I want you to picture your children at their current ages. Imagine the values that you would like to see in your children and in your relationship with your children . . . What are your interactions like? . . . How do you feel inside when values-based interactions are taking place? . . . . . . What did you picture?" . . . . . . After parents/caregivers discuss their experiences and images, the following questions encourage reflection and discussion on the development of values in children:

  • What types of activities promote those behaviors? ...
  • What types of words and attitudes generate positive responses?...

In most groups, facilitators find that several values emerge. The group may wish to decide on which values to focus first. It is of great benefit to have the school and home working on the same values at the same time. If, however, parents decide they want to start with a value that has not been chosen, listen, list their reasons, and let them come to a consensus. They will be more motivated to be involved when they are part of the decision.

Six-Step Framework for Session 2 and Ongoing Sessions

It is ideal to take at least a couple of sessions for each value. Begin the time on each values with a poem or a short story on the particular value, or you may wish to read a short, pertinent selection from Living Values: A Guidebook. When the group begins the second value in later session, ask the group if one of them would like to open with one of their favorite stories, poems or songs. Open discussion with, "What does that value mean to you?"

  • Step Two: Discuss How We Communicate That Value

This series of questions is to elicit the wealth of knowing and wisdom that parents/caregivers have within: "How do we communicate this value? How do we teach it to our children?... How do we increase the experience of ______ in the home? In our relationship with our children? ... In our interactions with our children?...In the home environment? ... In the self?"... The parents usually conclude that children learn from the behaviors of parents.

  • Step Three: Play With The Value

What Other Values Activities Can We Do At Home?

After the caregivers have discussed the value of focus, facilitators can refer to Section 2 of the Parents/Caregivers Module which provides suggestions for parent activities, most of which are from the Value Activities for Children sections. Section 2 is organized by values, and has suggestions for each value. Parents are encouraged to play with the exercises used at the age level of their children. During this section, parents are asked to share their favorite childhood songs, stories and games - the intent is to bring the values of that culture more frequently into the home. Hopefully, the group will spend at least half its time playing and experimenting with the values, and rediscover the importance and beauty of play.

In Section 2, there are separate sections for each of the twelve values for the parents to do:

  • At Group Meetings - Activities are designed for the formal group process, with simulation and discussion a critical part of the learning. These activities invite parents to model the values as their children are or will be doing.
  • At Home -- Activities or suggestions are offered for parents and caregivers in the home setting. A limited list, it is intended to stimulate the caregivers' creativity, and the sharing of their ideas.

At Group Meetings, parents view a variety of activities that provide children with the experience of a value at different levels. The Values Activities for Children have Reflection Points at each age level. For example, children ages 2-7 are told:

  • Respect is feeling good about myself.
  • Respect is knowing I am unique and valuable.
  • Respect is knowing I am lovable and capable.
  • Respect is liking who I am.
  • Respect is listening to others.
  • Respect is knowing others are valuable, too.
  • Respect is treating others nicely.

Reflection Points on Tolerance for students aged 8-14 discuss one of the following points each day, sometimes following up with essays or illustrations:

  • Peace is the goal, tolerance is the method.
  • Tolerance is being open and receptive to the beauty of differences.
  • Tolerance is mutual respect through mutual understanding.
  • The seeds of intolerance are fear and ignorance.
  • The seed of tolerance, love, is watered by compassion and care.

The value reflection points are based on the understanding that every human being has innate worth and inalienable dignity. It is wonderful to watch children talk about these, and then have them start putting them into practice with some of the activities. The reflection points can provide a new perspective for parents as well.

The visualizations within the Values Activities for Children encourage children to access their own creativity and inner gifts. One of the At Home suggestions for parents is to consider including a short visualization or a prayer in their nighttime ritual with their children.

There are communication exercises to teach peaceful social skills. Parents become familiar with what the children will be learning. For example, in section on peace, 4 year olds will learn, "Arms are for hugging, not for shoving" while older children learn conflict resolution strategies. Artistic activities, songs and dance have students express themselves while experiencing the value of focus. They draw murals of a better world, create peace slogans and posters, and sculpt freedom. Children identify their own qualities and the qualities of others in the unit on respect. Little kids make crowns, with their qualities as the jewels, and then dance. Older students do a five-day experiment while doing their usual school activities in the unit on respect - exploring how subtle respect and disrespect is given and how it feels. In the discussion time that follows students the effects of different attitudes and behaviors. Game-like activities are thought provoking and fun; cooperative games have them tie ankles together and eat without bending their elbows, skits during the value of honesty have students look at the human consequences of cheating others. Skits and imaginative thinking tasks stimulate awareness of personal and social responsibility, and for teenagers, issues of social justice. The development of self-esteem and tolerance continue throughout the exercises. Parents are encouraged to add their own culture's stories, songs and games, and those of cultures around them.

  • Step Four: Discuss How Each Parent Can Implement At Home

Present Parenting Skills As Appropriate

Opening the discussion to the feelings, thoughts, and obstacles to implementing the value in the home setting is essential. Many parents have not had parenting classes, and some have had negative or abusive role models. Hence, this is a perfect time to listen carefully, open up the discussion to suggestions from other caregivers, and teach appropriate Parenting Skills for the situation. A facilitator who has taught parenting classes will be well prepared for these discussions, as often parents are receptive to input and in need of practical strategies to reduce conflict and stress.

To aid facilitators with less extensive parent-group experience, Section 3 contains Parenting Skills in response to common parental concerns as well as information addressing those concerns. Suggestions are given for different age groups, from 0 through 18 year olds.

The second session is a perfect time to present the information in The Importance of Play, Parenting Skill. It was written in response to the common parental concern: "I don't have enough time." Play is beneficial for children; having this kind of interaction with their parents usually makes the relationship closer, and increases the child's self-esteem. Some parents do not play with children, and a few have not had the opportunity to play as adults.

An excerpt:

For Parents of 5- to 9-Year-Olds

  • Why did I have children in the first place?
  • Why do I love them?
  • What do I wish I had done more of over the past few years?

Finding some time every day to play with your children is so important. That precious time is when relationships are enjoyed and the feelings of love grow. The children who get "Us Time" get that full attention and close eye contact which tell them they are valued and valuable.

Ask yourself:

  • What do I enjoy doing myself that I can do with my child?
  • What would be fun for both myself and the child?

There's an interesting saying: "Cooperation follows love." By playing every day with your children so they can count on getting your full, undivided attention for even 15 minutes a day, minor negativities will simply disappear. Play games you enjoyed at that age or would have liked to have played. Play pretend games, play outside, play with balls and dolls, play with the simple enjoyment of enjoying your children. Introduce them to the common games of your culture - perhaps cards and board games, soccer or circle dances. Don't get competitive yourself, but model graceful winning and losing. (Winning a game with a child about one-third of the time is fine.) Teach them things; have them experience themselves to be successful. Take them places that are free. Go on a walk, to a park, to a lake or the ocean.

Us Time can also be a time of just listening with your full attention. Use daily routine time to interact with your children. For instance, converse in the bus or car or as you walk to the store.

Other Parenting Skills:

Time To Be and "Time Out" To Think and Communicate are suggested in the value of Peace.

Positively Building Behaviors Through Praise and Active Listening are suggested in the value of Respect.

The Balance of Discipline and Loveand Establishing a Ritual are suggested in the value of Love.

Positively Building Behaviors Through Praise is suggested in the value of Responsibility.

Think Before Saying No is suggested in the value of Honesty.

Staying Stable and Loving is suggested in the value of Responsibility.

Another excerpt:

The Balance of Discipline and Love was in response to the parental statement: "All they want to do is watch TV."

Almost all parents recognize the importance of a healthy diet. They want their children to have nourishing meals and develop good eating habits. They carefully choose the food the family eats. Food for the mind is important as well. The diet of what children watch on television affects their minds and attitudes. Research has shown that more than four hours of television per day is actually harmful to children. They do not develop as well physically or in expressive language, creativity, or social skills. Television can be addictive; it can be a "mind robber." One can sit in front of TV and simply have the mind filled. Emotions we choose to ignore can be dismissed, and we do not have to interact with others or use our mind to find something to do. Many children, consequently, have limited time for the essential tasks of childhood which are critical for physical, cognitive, emotional, spiritual, and social growth. It is important for children to play and exercise, to create and invent, to relate and express.

In the same way that some sweets are okay in a diet, a bit of television is okay, depending on the content. Violence teaches violence. Part of becoming a parent with the balance of discipline and love is learning that it is appropriate to have sensible rules and to tell the children what is right and wrong. Talking about right and wrong actions is most often accepted when the parent is able to share that information calmly and with love. It is amazing how children accept sensible rules. They may fuss for a few days, but you will see positive changes. It is wise to monitor the television and videos to which children are exposed, just as it is wise to monitor the environments in which they are placed. Give small doses of the best of television. There are a few beautiful programs that are inspiring, funny, creative, and humanizing. There are informational ones that are interesting and educational.

Allow your children the opportunities to build forts, climb trees, play sports, dance, do puzzles, and read. Read with your children story books and wonderful tales before bedtime. Talk with them and enjoy your children. This does require more time on the part of the parent, but because of your encouragement and extra effort, your children will learn to entertain themselves, be more creative and positive, and play more successfully with others.

Of course, the facilitator needs to be sensitive to the needs of the group and should feel free to present Parenting Skills as the need arises. The facilitator also needs to be sensitive to cultural issues and should offer only those Parenting Skills which are appropriate and pertinent to the group, tailoring examples as necessary.

  • Step Five: Adjourn With Homework

Sessions are ended with caregivers each selecting their own homework - perhaps playing with the children, increasing praise, or being more peaceful themselves.

  • Step Six: Next Session

What Worked?

At the following session, participants are asked to share their experiences/successes at home. What worked and what did not? ... What changes did they notice? ... Facilitators should listen, enjoy the stories, acknowledge, and congratulate them on their efforts. Take time, be light when they feel they have not been successful, help them figure out why something may not be working. This is an important time to build confidence and enthusiasm for their new parenting practices.

When the caregivers are ready to take up the next value, start with Step One again.

Creating a better world for all -- where each child and adult can play, be well feed, educated, and nurtured in a safe, free environment -- is one of the most demanding tasks in the world. In working for that together we will be successful. Congratulations and good luck to each one of you.


Diane G. Tillman
Living Values Educational

Character Education is for Everyone!

by Kathleen A. Shea, Ph.D.

This article was published in the Miami Herald - 2 February, 2002

Character Education is for Everyone!

At a recent in-service training program for teachers, John Doyle, Miami-Dade County Schools? Administrative Director for the Division for Social Sciences, made the case for character education. He reminded teachers of the growing consensus about the need for character education in the face of increasing concerns about student behavior and negative societal influences. He pointed out that despite people?s differences over cultural, social, and political issues, core values such as respect, responsibility, and honesty are universal. Moreover, in Miami-Dade County, character education is the law! The Pupil Progression Plan of Miami-Dade County Public Schools requires character education, as based on the districts? nine core values, for all students, grades K-12.

According to a leading character educator, Dr. Thomas Lickona, the question is not whether to do character education, but whether to do it well. For that reason, the Division of Social Sciences co-sponsored the recent teacher in-service with Living Values Education. This program is a global collaborative of educators who seek to create educational environments where all the participants ? children, parents, teachers, administrators, staff, and others ? feel valued, respected, cared about, and appreciated. Begun as a project in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the United Nations and now supported by UNESCO, UNICEF, and several well-regarded peace organizations, this project is currently operating in nearly 70 countries world-wide, and has recently been introduced to Miami-Dade County. The Miami Shores/Barry University Connected Learning Community Charter School has agreed to become a national demonstration site, and nearly 100 teachers from schools throughout the district participated in the recent character education in-service program.

The Miami-Dade School District has designated a focus value for each month during the school year. The value for February is INTEGRITY. Everyone can participate in this character education initiative by becoming ?living values?. Think about what integrity means and how it is demonstrated throughout your day. Is integrity one of your specialties? Would students learn integrity by watching your behavior? What happens when people don?t exhibit integrity?

Character education is just another program unless those values come alive in all of us. "Practice what you preach" is a simple axiom, but it is the reason that Living Values has worked so well all over the world, and will now support Miami-Dade County Schools? character education initiative.

Kathleen A. Shea, Ph.D. is an educator and consultant. She is a volunteer for Living Values Education.

Evidence of the Impact of Values Education

Evidence of the Impact of Values Education,
based on the research of the University of Newcastle, Australia (2009)
By Dr Neil Hawkes

When I was interviewed by national ABC in Australia, you will hear that I mentioned the excellent values research conducted at Newcastle University. Often, I am asked if there is any research evidence to support the claims of Living Values Education. I am delighted to inform you that there is a growing body of research evidence that supports our positive claims. In Australia, a number of studies have been conducted that show the positive effects of values education on school relationships, ambience, student wellbeing and improved academic diligence.  Living Values Education is acknowledged as being one of the inspirational forces behind these studies. (Lovat et al., 2009, p. 18)"

Professor Terry Lovat and his colleagues at Newcastle University, in Australia, have been monitoring and researching the effects of the Australian Government's Values Education Initiative. This year the University published its final report for the Australian Government, which looks at the evidence concerning the impact of introducing and developing Values Education in schools (Lovat,2009).

The research describes how values-based schools give increasing curriculum and teaching emphasis to Values Education. As a consequence students become more academically diligent, the school assumes a calmer, more peaceful ambience, better student-teacher relationships are forged, student and teacher wellbeing improves and parents are more engaged with the school - all claims made by Living Values too!

Explicit teaching of values provides a common ethical language for talking about interpersonal behaviour. It also provides a mechanism for self-regulated behaviour. An important outcome is a more settled school which enhances quality teaching and enables teachers to raise expectations for student performance.

The effective implementation of Values Education was characterized by a number of common elements.

  • Values Education was regarded as a school's "core business", given equal status with other areas and embedded in policies and student welfare practices;
  • A 'common language' was developed among staff, students and families to describe values and the school's expectations of student behaviour;
  • Staff endeavoured to 'model' and demonstrate the values in everyday interactions with students;
  • Values were scaffolded by supportive school-wide practices including teacher facilitation of student reflection and self-regulation of behaviour;
  • Values were taught in an explicit way in and out of the classroom and through other media (e.g. assemblies, sport and cooperative games, drama, songs etc.);
  • Values education was allied to 'real world learning' involving deep personal learning and imbued both planned and unplanned learning opportunities;
  • Values education was reinforced through positive visual media as well as consistent, verbal encouragement and acknowledgement;
  • Values education was allied to expressed high standards for overall participation,
    performance and achievement; and
  • Values education was optimally introduced under the guidance of the principal and/or a team of committed staff.
  • The research also revealed that Values Education had an impact in the following areas:

a. Student academic diligence was enhanced. Students:

  • showed increased attentiveness in class and a greater capacity to work independently;
  • assumed more responsibility for their own learning;
  • asked questions and worked together more cooperatively;
  • took greater care and effort in their schoolwork;
  • took more pride in their efforts.

b. The improvements in School ambience included:

  • conflict among students decreased or was managed more constructively;
  • students demonstrated greater empathy, honesty and integrity;
  • more tolerant and cooperative student interactions;
  • safer and more harmonious classrooms and playgrounds;
  • greater kindness and tolerance among students;
  • students actively seeking to include peers without friends;
  • students taking greater responsibility with school equipment and routine tasks;
  • students treating the school buildings and grounds 'with respect'.

c. The impact on student-teacher relationships was evidenced by:

  • "more trusting" relationships between staff and students;
  • the establishment of more 'democratic' classrooms;
  • teachers giving students more 'power' by allowing them choices in learning activities;
  • teachers being more conscious of scaffolding students to manage their own behaviour or resolve conflict with others;
  • teachers seeking opportunities to acknowledge and reinforce appropriate behaviour;
  • teachers 'listening' to students and responding to their concerns and opinions;
  • students perceiving that teachers treat them fairly;
  • students behaving "more respectfully" towards teachers;
  • students showing greater politeness and courtesy to teachers.

d. The positive impacts on student and teacher wellbeing included:

  • students feeling a greater sense of connectedness and belonging;
  • students gaining a greater capacity for self-reflection and self-appraisal;
  • students developing a greater capacity for regulating their own and their peers' behaviour;
  • teachers receiving collegial support and strong leadership;
  • teachers obtaining confidence and knowledge through opportunities for professional development and through staff collaboration;
  • teachers re-examining their practices and role;
  • the fostering of relational trust among staff and between teachers and families.

Other research evidence:

When Values Education was explicit, a common language was established among students, staff and families. This not only led to greater understanding of the targeted values but also provided a positive focus for redirecting children's inappropriate behaviour. Teachers perceived that explicitly teaching values and developing empathy in students resulted in more responsible, focused and cooperative classrooms and equipped students to strive for better learning and social outcomes. When values are explicitly endorsed, acknowledged and 'valued' within a school culture, it becomes incumbent on schools to ensure that staff, as well as students are both benefactors and recipients in respectful and caring interactions. The common focus draws teachers together to create a collaborative and cohesive school community which supports teachers to do their job more effectively. This has important ramifications for students' academic progress and wellbeing.

Many thanks to Newcastle University's research program which has produced such excellent evidence on the impact of Values Education. I invite you to share it with others so that we can further encourage the development of Living Values Education.

Dr Neil Hawkes
Oxford, UK. 2009


Lovat, T., Toomey, R., Dally, K. & Clement, N. (2009). Project to test and measure the impact of values education on student effects and school ambience. Final Report for the Australian Government Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR) by The University of Newcastle. Canberra: DEEWR. Available here

Being a School of Excellence: Values-based Education

by Neil Hawkes

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Advisory & Inspection Service


"Values-based Education"
Blueprint and sample lessons

Neil Hawkes
Senior Adviser

May 2001



Advisory and Inspection Service
   Advisory and Inspection Service, Cricket Road Centre


Oxfordshire County Council - Education Service
   Cricket Road Oxford OX4 3DW

To: Headteachers of all Nursery, First, Primary and Middle Schools & Units

cc: Headteachers of Secondary Schools
Heads of Services
Officers and Advisers

Tel: 01865:428117
Fax: 01865 428118

May 2001


Dear Colleague,

During recent years a great deal of national and local effort has been directed at curriculum development. Despite extensive innovation many schools report that pupil attitudes and behaviour are all too often negative and challenging. Such behaviour inhibits the development of a school ethos that both raises achievement and encourages pupils to be self-disciplined and develop holistically. Research, such as that undertaken by Hay McBer into school effectiveness, indicates that it is the degree to which a school can develop a positive school climate that is a main indicator for a successful school. In Oxfordshire we have been developing a vision for school effectiveness based on values and aims that will inspire a school's community. Such inspiration acts as the "mortar", with the curriculum being the "bricks" in the wall of good practice. The enclosed document aims to assist you as you continue to provide the "mortar" for being a school of excellence.

The enclosed blueprint, sample lessons and other materials will support you in developing a values-based approach to teaching and learning in your school. I am very aware that many Oxfordshire schools are using such a rationale to underpin the curriculum. However, I have been asked by so many colleagues to put together a helpful pack of resources that will act both as a check list and ideas bank that will support schools.

I am aware that I am sending this support at a time of unprecedented change. I hope that you will find the materials timely because if they are considered by the school community and acted upon then they will support you in managing the processes of change to the benefit of the whole community. They are not intended to increase workload or create stress. Indeed, on the contrary, they will help to prevent both these aspects that all too often are seen in schools.

Citizenship is currently high on the educational agenda. The vision of a values-based school contained in the enclosed blueprint will support your schools' development of active citizenship. Values-based education is not a new subject to be incorporated into the curriculum, rather it is an educational philosophy, an approach to teaching and learning that underpins the way a school organises itself, develops relationships and promotes positive human values. Schools that adopt such an approach report that there is a qualitative improvement in pupil attitudes and behaviour. Furthermore academic results are seen to improve with the added bonus of teachers finding that their work is less stressful.

The purpose of values-based education is:

  • To help the school community think about and reflect upon positive universal values and the practical implications of expressing them in relation to themselves, others, the community and the world.
  • To inspire individuals to choose their own positive personal, social, moral and spiritual values and be aware of ways for developing and deepening them as world citizens.

From my experience both as a headteacher and adviser I am convinced that values-based education supports schools in promoting an inclusive school ethos and the methods of working that raises achievement and helps pupils to raise their self-esteem and take greater responsibility for their own behaviour and learning. Overall, it enables pupils to examine the kind of life that is worth living and to consider what kind of life they want for themselves.

The enclosed document is the third in a series that will support values-based education. It follows the documents on the Role of the Assembly and Reflection. I am delighted that so many headteachers have found these documents to be of practical help in developing their schools. I know that I can rely on you that you won't consider the enclosed just as a piece of curriculum design that can be issued to staff for them to implement. It is, of course, much more complex, leading to a personal and social transformational process that effects all aspects of school life. Values are acknowledged to be at the heart of leadership by the General Teachers Council in all its recent publications. We can never be value free so the process of self-evaluation is crucial if we are to appreciate the effect that our values have on the life of the school. Values is a generic term and as such is limited and open to misunderstanding. Please don't let the term values put you off, as other terms such as principles or just good educational practice can replace it.

At the core of values-based education lies an agreed set of principles, deeply held convictions, that underpin all aspects of a school's life and work. The process is holistic and developmental, demanding a great deal from the school's community. However, the demands have a tremendous return in terms of improved ethos, relationships, pupil behaviour, quality of work and general achievement. Staff report that once the system is embedded in the school then their work becomes easier! This is a great selling point! 

I am most grateful to the Values-based Education Task Team whose schools have pioneered much of the enclosed material. The enclosed sample values lessons were produced over a two year period by staff who have worked at West Kidlington Primary School. The full set of lessons will be made available to purchase later in the year. Also in the Autumn term I shall be organising seminars, to which you will be invited to attend, that will give us an opportunity to discuss the enclosed.

I am very keen to hear about your experiences using a values-based approach so please send me samples of your own work and anecdotes of your own good practice. I am very conscious that there are many schools which are developing similar approaches and I would very much like to share their practice.

I am aware that this introductory letter has been longer than I would normally have wished. I am sure though that you will appreciate the necessity for giving a rationale so that you will share my enthusiasm for values-based education as a philosophy for developing and supporting schools of excellence.

With warmest wishes.

Yours sincerely,

Neil Hawkes
Senior Adviser

One Headteacher's experience of introducing values-based education

Stonesfield Primary School, along with an increasing number of schools in Oxfordshire, has embraced an approach to education called vales education. In assemblies and class lesson times staff and children explore on a rolling programme values such as tolerance, respect, patience and hope. We are on a journey together as we develop and deepen our understanding of these values, of ourselves and of each other.

In our modern society values education helps to fill the void in our collective consciousness that has been left by the widespread rejection of centuries of religion. Although we are still guided in our morality by the state and judiciary, our laws and the complexity of their consequences are not easily translatable for young children. Values education offers an accessible moral code to a society which prides itself on individualism and yet which seems to be desperately adrift and searching for answers to our existence.

Values education offers a gentle introduction to the complexity of most of life's moral issues. Because values in turn are explored over a period of weeks, and are not presented as isolated matters, it allows us to delight in the extraordinary nature of things. We discover in our explorations that patience is an admirable virtue but that it is not always an appropriate response for every situation: patience can lead to inaction and this may not be healthy or positive. Values education does not insist on one 'right' view point of the world but encourages instead the individual to ponder, engage with, examine and explore issues, see life from different approaches and thereby develop an innate sense of empathy for different view points and considerations, as well as an intellectual curiosity about our world.

There are many apparent paradoxes within this philosophy: values education is, to a large extent, intangible and yet the effect of it in a school is palpable; it is supremely gentle and yet extraordinarily powerful; it does provide a clear framework and yet allows, even relies upon, freedom of thought and response. This enables the child to have a window on the world that is by its very nature complex and, at times, uncertain.

For a class teacher, values education provides a clear reference point for talking about things that pertain to all children in school: behaviour, relationships, self-worth and any other every day issues. It is egalitarian and has relevance to all children's lives: it is not set within a specific time frame, is relevant to children of all ages, ability, social class, culture and religion.

Through engaging in values education it has become clear to me that many children have an innate sense of their own spirituality and are in the process of developing a personal morality. I have seen such enthusiasm for this work from the children themselves that fills me with a certain hope for the future of our society.

I commend values education to you.

Bridget Knight



Values Education

Blueprint: how to introduce a values-based curriculum

1. First principles

  • Decide why you want to introduce values-based education and what it is about. Values are principles, fundamental convictions, ideals, standards or life stances that act as general guides to behaviour or as reference points in decision making.

  • Are you willing to act as its main role model and advocate because it embodies your vision, aims and values not to mention the school's pedagogy? Values education is most effective when the headteacher acts as a role model and ensures that it is at the heart of the school's philosophy. Consider issues to do with the school's context that will impact on how you introduce the process of values education. Consider carrying out an audit so that you can canvass staff, governor and pupil opinion and enlist their help. This is important as values education is a community activity and not an imposition from one person or a pressure group. If possible, consider visiting a school that already has a values-based curriculum, to get a 'flavour' of how it works.

  • A question could be, what positive values should we promote at school?

  • Be clear about the values that you wish to emphasise in the school. These should be adopted as a result of a consultation which could include a staff/governor workshop. In my experience all groups produce very similar lists of values as they are not dependent on race, culture, class or religion. A set of universal positive values will emerge that may include: honesty, peace, humility, freedom, cooperation, care, love, unity, respect, tolerance, courage, friendship, patience, quality and thoughtfulness.

  • Remember that the way you introduce values into your school will be dependent on your particular context and the needs of your pupils. This will include an understanding of the needs of the adults too! The effective care of staff is a fundamental principle of values-based education. Considering how your school meets the needs of staff and pupils is a crucial aspect and will draw out issues concerning the valuing of all pupils, showing pupils respect and being authentic as a person - the pupil soon spots inconsistencies between what teachers say and what they do. A good sense of fun and humour is also a prerequisite.

2. Method

  • Audit your school's institutional values. How are visitors greeted? How do staff interact with each other? What do displays and the general care of the school say about the school's values? Such an activity will help focus attention on developing a positive school climate where values are seen as vital in underpinning the curriculum. Talk about the school's ethos with staff, parents, governors and pupils by looking at the way you do things in your school. By being self-reflective and encouraging others to be so you will develop a reflective school - one that is responsible and takes control of its own development. Self-reflection is central to the establishment of a school that embodies values. It encourages pupils to work on themselves and their own attitudes and behaviour before criticising others. Think how your school contributes to the spiritual, moral, social and cultural (SMSC) development of your pupils. Identify subjects that make specific contributions and consider any particular methods that you currently use that promote the values of the school.

  • In order to create a positive school ethos there must be a commitment by the whole staff to the effect that values-based education is central to the school's mission. Throughout the process of introducing core values there must be staff, pupil, family and community involvement. Remember too the induction process for new staff. It is important that everyone is involved.

3. Key Teachers

  • Identify key teachers who will be advocates for the value work. These teachers, through their enthusiasm, commitment and "walking their talk" create the impetus which ensures that values lie at the core of the curriculum. They will act as role models who will encourage the whole school community. Ideally one teacher should act as curriculum leader/coordinator for values work so that the elements of values education can be carefully coordinated.

  • Give time for key teachers working with staff to analyse the current ethos of the school by determining the elements of good practices that already exist. Celebrating current good practices is key to encouraging teachers to develop values-based education. One school found in its audit that it currently gave emphasis to respecting pupils and ensuring that they were never criticised as people, only, when necessary, their inappropriate behaviour.

  • When good practice areas are identified, they can be built on and extended. E.g. School's Council, peer mediation, aspects of classroom management and organisation that promote positive behaviour.

4. Teaching and learning

  • Values cannot be taught in isolation but the school can provide experiences and situations in which the school community can consider and reflect about values and translate this reflection into action in the lives of its members. In order to do this the school needs to provide, in a conscious deliberate way, for the implicit and explicit consideration of values. This is done:

  1. by introducing values in a programme of assemblies. One value is highlighted each month. An assembly is then devoted to explaining the value in a way appropriate to the age and stage of the pupil. Staff also gain a deepening of their own understanding by taking part in such assemblies. If the school has a list of twenty-two core values then one value can be the focus each month during a two year cycle - August excepted! Staff can follow up the assembly with their classes. Some schools promote pupil assemblies for which pupils take significant responsibility. These are excellent vehicles for pupils to relate the value to their own experience and make an appropriate presentation to other classes. Values are imbibed when children can relate them to real life situations. Time is given during assemblies for silent reflection. This encourages pupils to go within themselves and they learn to become calm and focussed. Reflection can be used as an aid to learning in any lesson. Story telling is an excellent medium for framing the meaning of a value. (For more information please see the document about the role of reflection that was sent to schools in January 2001.)

  2. Each class teacher will prepare one value lesson each month that will build on the assembly. A variety of inclusive teaching and learning styles should be used to ensure that all pupils are engaged in the thinking process. These lessons are often described as philosophy for children, an apt description, as pupils have to consider real life situations, reflect on their own behaviour and responses, listen to those of others and learn to reflect on the reasons for their own reactions to events. This process develops emotional literacy, which is the ability of a pupil to think and talk about their emotional responses. This is the central process that enables children to gain responsibility for their actions (self-discipline). A by-product of this process is that the self-esteem and confidence of the pupils improves as do their oral skills. It is interesting to note that boys seem to benefit greatly from the process of reflection. Generally speaking this is something girls do more readily. The Socratic method of differentiated questioning extends children's thinking and is another excellent method that deepens understanding.

  3. By implicitly weaving values, like a seamless robe through the fabric of the curriculum, all teaching and non-teaching staff are encouraged to use the value of the month in their work with pupils. The value of the month should be the subject of a prominent display in the school and similar displays could be in each classroom. One school has a value for the month poster in each classroom.

  4. Through newsletters to parents, explaining what the value of the month is and how they can develop them at home. (Parents respond very positively to this involvement.) Workshops for parents are also a very useful way of engaging the community. Governors taking part in these sessions demonstrate to the parents the importance that is being placed on the work. At induction sessions for new parents to the school the headteacher can explain the school's values education policy and enlist their support.

5. Skills, knowledge, attitudes and understanding

  • Decide the range of skills, knowledge, attitudes and understanding that you wish to develop in the pupils. Remember that you are encouraging the holistic development of the pupil. This includes the spiritual world of the pupil - the inner world of thoughts and feelings. By encouraging spiritual development the pupil is given the opportunity to learn how to observe their thoughts and thereby encourage positive thinking. Learning how to focus attention and to actively listen whilst sitting still are other skills that promote reflective learning and good interpersonal skills. Lasting learning is associated with positive emotions and feelings. Long-term learning is promoted through frequent opportunities to reflect and to recall. In our society people suffer from overload and fragmentation - forms of chaos! A values approach to teaching and learning creates stability and empowers the individual to be in control of his/her reactions to situations that otherwise could create a negative reaction. The development of a proactive school's council has the potential for giving pupils opportunities to feel involved in decision making that affects the life of the school.

6. Benefits for the pupils

  • Identify the benefits that pupils will experience as values-based education is introduced. These should include: improved concentration, better pupil behaviour, improved social and academic standards. Issues concerning achievement, quality of learning, the raising of self-esteem, the development of reflective practices should all be considered.

7. Conclusion

  • It is vitally important that all staff members feel involved in the process of values education, so consideration must be given to in-service education. Throughout the process, share the development with parents and the wider school community.

  • Finally, ensure that the process is well-planned, monitored, evaluated and celebrated in order to keep the process alive and constantly under review.


Values Education Policy


To raise standards by promoting a school ethos which is underpinned by core values that support the development of the whole child as a reflective learner.


At our school we are giving a great deal of thought to the values that we are trying to promote in school. We regularly consider our core values and how the school sustains an ethos, which supports the pupil as a reflective learner and promotes quality teaching and learning. We are so very aware that society is faced with enormously complicated problems, which makes growing up a very difficult process. Children are constantly bombarded with negative messages, which aversely affect their mental, emotional and spiritual development. Also, they are repeatedly being given the impression that happiness is totally obtainable from a material world. They are conditioned to believe that 'things' will provide happiness. For example, advertisements encourage children to believe that the only source of entertainment is derived from the television or video! They are generally encouraged to experience life in a world totally external to their inner-selves: a world, which is full of noise and constant activity. Impressions of society being violent and selfish leave their mark as the child develops into adolescence. Symptoms of pupil stress are seen as children finding it difficult to listen attentively and to give school work their full concentration. Social relationships suffer as the child often fails to appreciate that building meaningful relationships is their responsibility.

As a school community, we believe the ethos of the school should be built on a foundation of core values such as honesty, respect, happiness, responsibility, tolerance and peace. These will at times be addressed directly through lessons and the acts of worship programme, whilst at others they will permeate the whole curriculum. Either way, they are the basis for the social, intellectual, emotional, spiritual and moral development of the whole child. We encourage pupils to consider these values, thereby developing knowledge, skills and attitudes that enable them to develop as reflective learners and grow to be stable, educated and civil adults.

Elements of Teaching and Learning

The elements of values education are:

  • ensuring that the school's institutional values are consistent with the values that pupils are encouraged to develop;

  • actively promoting a whole school policy that wins the support of both teaching and non-teaching staff and is led and monitored by the headteacher;

  • introducing monthly values through a programme of school assemblies. (Consider having a two yearly cycle of twenty two values.) Pupils are encouraged to be involved in exploring their understanding of values in pupil led assemblies;

  • directly teaching about values in values lessons. These lessons provide opportunities for personal reflection, moral discourse, and an appropriate activity to promote understanding. Teaching and learning about values takes places in the following steps:

  1. By teachers explaining the meaning of a value;
  2. Pupils reflecting on the value and relating to their own behaviour;
  3. By pupils using the value to guide their own actions;

  • ensuring that staff model the values through their own behaviour;

  • ensuring that values are taught implicitly through every aspect of the curriculum.


Values Education - sample lessons

Helpful thoughts

These are sample lessons developed and taught at West Kidlington Primary School as staff began to develop values education across the whole school. Hopefully they will serve to be a bank of ideas to be dipped into, added to and developed as each new teacher or school feels appropriate.

A few thoughts about using these lessons may be helpful:

Classroom ethos

Maintaining an ethos in the classroom that is positive and all inclusive, with a feeling of equality, will help children gain most from values lessons. It is important that any approach to class management is in line with the values being taught. Children soon feel secure and able to share their thoughts, feelings and experiences when they know that these are always welcomed and valued. Children also will respond quickly when the teacher is aware that he or she is an important role model as values are very much 'caught'.

Reflection (Stilling/silent sitting)

Most of the enclosed lessons would have begun with a period of 'reflection'. This is a time when the children are expected to sit still and silent for anything from one to four minutes, usually with some soft music and perhaps facilitating words from the teacher. This has proved to help children in a variety of ways. It regulates breath and heartbeat and so calms and relaxes the body. It quietens the mind, focuses attention and increases concentration. It helps to develop awareness and intuition, and the children are more able to get in touch with their own feelings. (For more information see the AIS document 'Being a School of Excellence - the role of reflection' published January 2001.)

Story Telling

Using a story where possible as a stimulus for the lesson has many advantages. It can put across the value in a way that all levels of awareness can access. It generates feelings, captures attention and often inspires. The listener is able to find parallels in their own experiences which can help in future difficult situations.


After the lesson stimulus, whole class discussion allows the value to be explored more deeply. The children gain insight from each other, especially if the teacher becomes practiced in facilitating Socratic discussion, summarising ideas and leading the children into considering further possibilities.

Lesson format

  • Each lesson has a helpful section on teacher understanding. (A list of definitions of 12 values is enclosed that may further aid understanding.) It is important that the teacher is able to translate this understanding into the living experience of the child.

  • Use a stimulus for the lesson that may be based on a story, discussion, experience or artefact, etc. The learning objective should be made clear. Eg to understand why the value of honesty is an important guide to our behaviour.

  • Next is the teacher-led discussion that lies at the core of the lesson. Careful questioning leads the pupils to a deeper appreciation of meaning and helps them to translate the value into areas of their own experience. Lessons are not theoretical but should aim to help the pupils to modify and expand their own thoughts and actions.

  • The next section of the lesson will be an activity that will encourage pupils to engage with the value.

  • Finally, a plenary session of review to evaluate understanding and to draw out key points that aid further development.


Enjoyment should be a key characteristic of values lessons and is vitally important. Children soon begin to look forward to their values lessons. They know what to expect and participate in all its elements with enthusiasm. As you use the lessons you will soon find and substitute your own stimulus and develop your own activities. Teaching values across the curriculum then becomes automatic. Aim to make enjoyment a key element and you will see positive effects in many other areas of school life.

Values Education

Twelve values and their definitions


Co-operation is helping one another 

Co-operation is working together with patience

Co-operation is collective effort to reach a goal


Happiness is knowing I am loved 

Happiness is giving everyone good wishes

Happiness is love and peace inside


Responsibility is being fair

Responsibility is doing my share of the work

Responsibility is taking care of myself and others


Simplicity is natural and beautiful

Simplicity is putting others first

Simplicity is appreciating the small things in life


Freedom is choice

Freedom is living with dignity

Freedom is when rights are balanced with responsibilities


Unity is togetherness

Unity is collective strength and harmony

Unity is personal commitment


Peace is when we get along

Peace is having positive thoughts for myself and others 

Peace begins within each one of us


Respect is knowing I am unique and valuable

Respect is liking who I am

Respect is listening to others


Love is caring and sharing

Love is feeling safe

Love is wanting good for others


Tolerance is accepting myself and others

Tolerance is knowing we are all different

Tolerance is being understanding and open-minded


Honesty is telling the truth

Honesty is trust

Honesty is being true to yourself and to others


Humility is accepting everyone

Humility is self-respect and self-esteem

Humility is courage and confidence


Year 1


Year 2




Year 3 Teacher Understanding

(Peace is the goal, tolerance is the method.)
Tolerance is accepting myself, even when I make mistakes.
Tolerance is accepting others, even when they make mistakes.
We are all unique and have something valuable to offer and share.
Tolerance is accepting others and appreciating differences.


Teacher leads discussion by telling of a time when tolerance needs to be shown.


When have you had to be tolerant?


Circle time with children sharing personal experiences about being tolerant. How did they feel ? was it easy or difficult? What was the outcome? What might have happened if they had not been tolerant?

Year 3



Year 4

Year 5


Year 6


Year 1



Year 2


Year 3


Year 4



Year 5


Year 5

Teacher Understanding

Stepping outside of the self.
Being mindful of others ? their needs and feelings and putting these before your own.
Thoughtfulness is giving out of a love for others.


Poem "I am" by Ella Wheeler Wilcox.


  • What is pleasure and woe?
  • What can we do to add to the joy or pain in the world?
  • How can we brighten the world?
  • How can we make life sweeter for others?
  • What little things do people say or do that make you feel good?
  • How can you be thoughtful this Christmas?


Write you own acrostic poem using


Year 5



Year 6



  1. Meditation is where you let your body relax and your mind float into a dimension where there are no other life forms.

    You have got to imagine that you are trapped in a block of concrete and cut off from any other people.

    I have tried meditation and it is indeed very hard. There are people around you that might laugh and think you are silly. You have got to cut yourself off from that and just think that no-one else is around you. If you let other people let themselves distract you then your mind floats towards them.

    It takes a while to be able to accustom to all other specialities that you need to be able to concentrate on what you are supposed to be doing.

    You have to concentrate on pictures or candles. The pictures can be things like your relatives or your friends.

    When I tried meditating I concentrated on the patterns on the tiles that line the ceiling.

    Buddhists meditate to cut themselves off from the outside world and escape from all the worries that you or I may face in our lives.

    The sit cross-legged because it is the most comfortable position that you can sit in for long periods. Many Yogis don't like people to watch them when they are meditating so they go into places where nobody can see them. Many great Yogis say that they can levitate but as no-one has seen them do this they can only believe what they hear.

    There is a story called Henry Sugar and there is a Yogi who does not like to be seen and when he is seen he starts getting really cross. I doubt that this is true but there is a possibility that it is true.

  2. Buddhist people mediate all the time throughout their lives. They focus on one thing for hours. Meditating is just like praying and speaking to god. Sometimes people think they are something else. They have to relax their bodies, they have to think and concentrate until they can see a picture in their minds of what they are concentrating on or until they have cleared their minds and they can see what happiness really is. The main reason why they meditate is so they can clear their minds.

    At school we had a go at meditating and I found it really hard. I tried concentrating on my dog. I started to get an outline of my dog getting a picture like this is called visualisation. We did this for about five minutes. You have to try and relax, when I relaxed my body went all numb. I felt as if I was going to sleep.



The following books and materials are very useful:

  • Living Values Education Activities Series of Books
  • A Quiet Revolution by Frances Farrer. Rider
    ISBN 0712605770
  • Education in Human Values: manual and lesson plans,
    contact June Auton, Lower Walbridge Farmhouse, Dowlish Wake, Ilminster Somerset TA19 ONZ
  • Turn Your School Around - Jenny Mosley L.D.A.
    ISBN 1/85503/174/4
  • Don't just do something sit there - Mary K.Stone RMEP
    ISBN 1/85175/105/X
  • Values and Visions - Sally Burns and George & Anne Lamont- Hodder & Stoughton
    ISBN 0340/64412/5
  • Skills for the Primary Child - TACADE



The work of the Values in Education Task Team is gratefully acknowledged as is the work of Anne Marks who designed the pack. The Task Team members are:

Alison Williams
John Heppenstall
Marilyn Trigg
Bridget Knight
Linda Heppenstall
Karen Errington
Lindsey Weimers
Neil Hawkes

Other resources in the schools of excellence series:

For further advice on developing values-based education contact Neil Hawkes, Senior Adviser on 01865 428117.

Being a School of Excellence: The Role of the School Assembly

by Neil Hawkes

Download this article in PDF format pdf file

1. What is an Assembly?
2. Role and Purpose of an Assembly
3. Morning Assemblies
4. The Role of Reflection
5. Examples of Words Used during Reflections
6. Key Elements that Contribute to a Successful Assembly: Planning
7. Creating an Assembly of Excellence

A high quality school assembly is one of the most important aspects of a school's curriculum. Its potential to nurture a positive school ethos that stresses care for the self, others and the pursuit of all forms of excellence should not be underestimated. It powerfully nurtures the development of intrapersonal intelligence.

What follows illustrates how school assemblies, in all phases of schooling, can make a positive contribution to pupil self-development and therefore be at the heart of raising achievement and standards. The examples given are based upon a form of assembly that has been developed by planning to encourage pupils to reflect upon a set of universal values, such as love, peace, truth, co-operation and respect. These values act as the foundation not only for religious education (RE) but for the development of personal, social and health education (PSHE), citizenship and the spiritual, moral, social and cultural (SMSC) aspects of the curriculum. In other words they underpin the school's institutional values and the whole of the curriculum! I acknowledge with deep gratitude the inspiration of many teachers who have so powerfully contributed to the ideas contained in this article. Particularly, thanks to the school community at West Kidlington Primary and Nursery School in Oxfordshire where I was headteacher for nearly seven years.

1. What is an Assembly?

An assembly is when the school community, or a part of it, meets together to share aspects of life that are of worth. It acts as a medium for communicating matters of significance from one generation to another. In England, an act of collective worship is usually held as part of an assembly as it has been a legal requirement since the 1944 Education Act.

2. Role and Purpose of an Assembly

A school explains the role and purpose of assembly in its documentation:

Our assemblies, which include our Acts of Worship [the legal obligation], are an important feature of our school's life. They act as one of the main ways by which we create our positive reflective ethos and promote our values-based education. I am grateful to all colleagues who make a positive contribution to them. In fact, all colleagues make a tremendous contribution through their presence and active participation. Pupils are very aware that all staff, by their positive attitude, involve themselves in assemblies, acting as role models for the pupils to emulate. Assemblies contain times of quiet reflection that enable pupils to develop the deepest values and aspirations of the human spirit.

A visitor to this school remarked:

The most important thing is wholeness - a whole community. This is not a place that is only devoted to teaching pupils things. The function of the school is that the pupils learn their academic stuff more effectively because they learn in a valued, structured environment. The quality of learning is better, and life skills and values are absorbed in ways they are in few other schools. No detail about people, individuals, or the conduct of the school, is considered unimportant. There's a clear sense of vision.

As the quote above exemplifies, assemblies should aim to create, nurture and sustain a sense of community. They can serve to develop a positive school ethos that affirms the school's identity and aspirations. The result being that the school lives in cohesive harmony that sustains the pursuit of excellence in all its forms.

The physical setting for an assembly is important and when possible care should be taken with such detail as heating, ventilation, comfort and the aesthetic nature of the room. To achieve an assembly of excellence the appropriate atmosphere and tone can be created through the sensitive use of:

  • a central focus, such as a display, that can help pupils think about the theme of the assembly;
  • music that can help create a calm and reflective mood;
  • black-out and spot lighting (if available) help to make assembly time special;
  • the leader of the assembly being seated in an attitude appropriate for a reflective experience as the pupils arrive for assembly;
  • all adults in an assembly modelling the behaviour that is expected of the pupils;
  • pupils being actively included in all aspects of the assembly.

Underlying the above is the assumption that all who lead an assembly understand the term spiritual. To come to an understanding of this term is essential in-service education for the whole staff. This is necessary because developing and deepening the spiritual dimension of life is key to ensuring that assemblies are powerful vehicles for establishing schools of excellence.

3. Morning Assemblies

Monday morning assembly is particularly important, as it should bring the whole school back together again after the weekend break, to re-focus upon the week in view, on its objectives and the tools that will be used to achieve them. Other assemblies during the week build on the standards that are set at the beginning of the week. Schools should develop their own pattern of assemblies that will include whole school, key stage, year group and class assemblies. Also the time of assembly will vary with purpose.

What should be demonstrated in an assembly is a reiteration of the value of each individual pupil including their individual thoughts and abilities. There should be a reiteration of the importance of those elements to the community and the secure place of each pupil within the school. Finally, at a subtle but powerful level, a reminder of the importance to each pupil and adult in the assembly of the school itself. Indeed a very complex web of ideas, observations and intentions should be woven if the assembly is to be one of excellence.

The pupils should be invited to consider their inner capabilities, their positive worth, their place in the community and their purpose for the week, and to do it from the touchstone of that month's positive value. Pupils respond in the affirmative, so that they are focused, positive, calm, and ready to start. The school community starts from the individual pupil and the value of each one, and allows them to see their part in their own world.

4. The Role of Reflection

Careful thinking about the physical setting for an assembly leads on to the consideration of its form and content. The practice of reflection, sometimes known as creative visualisation or stilling, is probably at least as rare in schools as it is in the larger world. Reflection helps pupils focus upon the positive aspects of themselves that they can value and build on. Incidentally, the use of the word meditation is deliberately avoided because is can create an impression, to the world at large, of images of cross-legged gurus reciting mantras! Reflection, on the other hand, is not so open to misinterpretation.

Silent reflection should be a key element in an assembly. It has several crucial elements that include:

  • creating an appropriate atmosphere in the assembly that is conducive to leading the pupils in a reflective exercise;
  • encouraging pupils to sit in a relaxed, comfortable and still manner;
  • developing the ability to use the inner eye of imagination;
  • the person conducting the assembly using appropriate words to stimulate the creation of a picture on the screen of the minds of the pupils;
  • pupils developing the skills necessary to go within themselves, thus being observers of their thoughts in order to nurture positive images that support positive behaviour.

The ability of the leader of the assembly to be able to set high expectations in terms of appropriate pupil behaviour and attitude cannot be over emphasised. The pupils will model themselves on this person whose behaviour must be sincere and authentic. Pupils are quick to spot inconsistencies in adult behaviour. They will avoid entering into the reflective spirit of an assembly taken by an adult whose own inner world is unstable. (Some may say that this is an unrealistic expectation, as each adult is on their own path of spiritual development. However, the crucial aspect is to maintain an honest approach that avoids making any pretence at what is untrue in terms of personal beliefs and values.)

5. Examples of Words Used during Reflections

The following are examples of appropriate words that have been used successfully for reflections during assemblies:

With each breath let your body become more and more relaxed. With each out breath, breathe out any worry ... with each in breath feel yourself breathing in quietness and calm ...

Now imagine a beautiful waterfall of light entering the top of your head ... feel the waterfall of light gently flowing through your head ... down your neck ... into your chest and shoulders...The waterfall of light is warm and full of gentle energy. ..Feel it move down your shoulders, into your arms ... your hands and out through your fingers. More light falls as a waterfall down your back - into your tummy - your legs - down to your feet and out through your toes - washing away with it any stress or worry.

Now you are completely bathed in a continuous waterfall of light enjoy its freshness and the gentle calm it brings in a moment you are going to leave the waterfall of light and you will find yourself back in the hall, feeling relaxed, calm and refreshed when you are ready, open your eyes.

In the following, consider the purpose behind each of the four parts of the reflection:

  1. This morning in a moment of silence let us sit very still, close our eyes and feel relaxed.

  2. On the screen of your mind, see yourself in your classroom, working hard at an activity, co-operating with others. Feel good about this work.

  3. Now think about our month's value - the value of trust - and think about someone you really trust. How do we become trustworthy, so others will trust us What qualities do we need to develop? Patience, tact, friendliness, co-operation, honesty, may be some of the qualities.

  4. Choose one to think about during the day....Now open your eyes again.

In a, this form of words, which is often used, invites pupils to adopt a particular physical and mental attitude that sets the scene for the reflection. Pupils come to understand the expression on the screen of your mind in b and with practice learn to use their creative imagination. Positive feelings are invited about working with others in the classroom. In c the month's value word of trust is used. (The school has a cycle of monthly values that are fostered in the pupils.) Thinking about someone the pupil trusts helps to develop a deeper understanding of the concept before returning to think about self-development. Finally in d pupils are invited to take the thinking developed during the reflection into the rest of the day. This helps in the development of the value by making it a recurring theme to think about.

6. Key Elements that Contribute to a Successful Assembly: Planning

The importance of planning cannot be underestimated. Last minute thinking does not create meaningful assemblies. Assemblies can be based on a yearly plan that incorporates monthly values and weekly themes. This plan is the subject of staff discussion and amendment because it is important that all staff feel comfortable with the proposed themes. This process gives a sense of ownership of both the process and content of the assemblies. This is vital as it stops assemblies from being seen as elements of the curriculum for which headteachers are solely responsible.

The following is an example of a yearly plan of themes and values:

Planning For Assemblies
Themes for Acts of Worship and Associated Values

Date - Week Beginning



6th September



13th September


Religious Ceremonies

20th September



27th September


Famous People

4th October


Health Week (Care for Yourself)

11th October


Aspects of Hinduism

18th October



1st November


Remembrance Discussion about conflict - prayer for peace

8th November



15th November



22nd November



29th November


Individual differences

6th December


Positive attitudes/character/personality

13th December



11th January


The Bible

18th January


Beauty and Wonder

25th January


Places of Worship, church, temple and other sacred, special or personal places

7th February


Love - different sorts for different things

14th February


Spring - New beginnings

28th February


Dying (Loss)

6th March


Mothers - her role. Rest of the family Mother's Day

13th March


Excellence: Examples from religious stories

20th March



27th May


Community Humility

3rd April


Wesak Celebrating birth, death and enlightening of Buddha

10th April


Birth of a child, growth, babies, new member of family, baptism

1st May


Learning about drugs

8th May


Friends of Jesus Relationships

15th May


Environment - care

22nd May


Disability, blindness or deafness

5th June


What are religious artefacts?

12th June


Co-operations, kindness, doing your best, enjoyment

19th June


People in need Charity

26th June


Care of animals

3rd July



10th July


Giving thanks


On 26 June the assembly theme was Care of Animals. The planning for the assembly can be seen illustrated in the following mind-map.



VALUE: Trust
DATE: 26.6.99.
THEME: Care of Animals
LEARNING INTENTIONS: All things in nature: plants/animals are inter-connected and have their place in God's world. Human beings must take responsibility for looking after the world and everything in it.


Good Practice Primary School - Assembly Record Sheet

REFLECTION: Let us sit quite still and closing our eyes let us pray:

Dear God, thank you for our natural world with all its many animals. We give thanks today for our pets. May we be ever mindful of our responsibility towards our pets showing them care, consideration and kindness so that they can always trust us. Amen.


Planning Notes for the Initial Reflection

  1. Welcome all: visitors from USA, other visitors, staff and pupils

  • hope everyone had a good weekend despite the changeable weather

  • hope this week is both happy and one in which we can say to ourselves that we have understood and put into practice our values this month of TRUST.

  1. Reflection: Beginning our week being determined to do our best is very important so may I invite everyone in the hall to:

  • sit very still, with straight backs, hands in our laps and gently close our eyes

  • now be aware of your breathing and for a few moments with each in breath feel calm and with each out breath let go of any thought which may be troubling you.

  • now on the screen of your mind see your favourite pet . see its colour, size, characteristics . see it being cared for . be aware of your feelings when you look at this pet . feelings of happiness and love . with these thoughts in your mind open your eyes and bring your attention to me.

Yes, animals - caring for them - what pets have we got?

Hands up - dogs, cats, etc. c/f Mr. Brown's cat that had been taken to the vet. Mr. and Mrs. Brown love their cat.


For secondary school colleagues I have included the following mind-map as an example of an assembly on the theme of using personal power.



VALUE: Support of others

THEME: How do we use the power we have to help others? a reflection on Toy Story (1)

LEARNING INTENTIONS:We have a relationship with our friends and can influence them negatively and positively. We have a responsibility to reflect on the consequences of our actions and words, and decide how we will help others to grow.

Assembly outline

Good Practice Primary School - Assembly Record Sheet

REFLECTION AND DEDICATION:(using the candle flame as a focus)

In our school life we will face many pressures from friends - and have choices to make. Let's make the decision to help our friends to grow in their skills and strengths, and not hold them back. The light of the candle is dedicated to all in our school who have good friends, and all who at the moment feel they need a good friend.

GROUP OF PUPILS:Year 7-9 (also years 10-13, but message adapted)
RESOURCES: OHP/OHTs, Video of Toy Story and video machine, candle and matches, music


7. Creating an Assembly of Excellence

Outstanding assemblies occur when a positive connection is established between the leader of the assembly and those taking part. This includes both pupils and staff! The content of the assembly must be both relevant and appropriate to the age and stage of the pupils. The leader should consciously work to enable all to be focused and in a frame of mind that is conducive to a spiritual awareness. Spirituality is here defined as, that which is concerned with the inner personal world of thoughts, feelings and emotions. Spiritual awareness is achieved through a process of establishing rapport with each person attending the assembly. How this is done is both subtle, complex and requires good quality teaching skills. Some of the crucial elements that are needed for a successful assembly are noted below.

Before the beginning of an assembly, the person leading it arrives early to ensure that the room is properly prepared. Preparation includes ensuring that appropriate music will be played. That is, music that will assist the process of helping everyone to be reflective. The school hall, in terms of cleanliness, display, heating, ventilation and tidiness creates an atmosphere that is conducive for ensuring a successful assembly. Coloured spot lighting, if available can be used to help create a special warm atmosphere. The leader of the assembly sits down and models the behaviour expected of everyone coming to the assembly. A relaxed, friendly yet serious attitude is adopted. This is not a time for exaggerated smiles or gestures. These can act as a signal that social interaction is expected and therefore should only be used when interactions between people are expected. Pupils are taught that assemblies are about developing inner thoughts and so they become used, and indeed, look forward to a quiet reflective atmosphere. It is often a mistake to look on assembly as a time to entertain the pupils. Teachers sometimes fall into the trap of trying to entertain pupils in order to hold their attention. Poor behaviour and inappropriate responses can often follow!

The leader models stillness as the pupils enter the hall. Staff model the expected behaviour too, as do pupils. Members of staff avoid interacting with each other or acting to police the behaviour of the pupils. Such action is inappropriate as it creates a negative perception about what assembly is about. A key strategy that the leader of the assembly uses is eye contact. He or she tries to have eye contact with as many pupils and staff as possible during these first few minutes. This connection is so very important as it demonstrates that each person is valued and held in respect. (However, it should be noted that in some cultures direct eye contact between adults and pupils is considered disrespectful. Sensitivity is necessary in employing this technique. For instance, by explaining to the pupils what eye contact is for and why it is used.) This moment of eye contact is very powerful and demonstrates that connections can be established between people without the need for exaggerated gesture. It is also a highly effective way of establishing discipline, as each pupil is aware that they are being actively observed. The leader maintains control in subtle ways, such as through self-confidence. A held look to a pupil who is not focused is usually all that is needed to check inappropriate behaviour. The pupils are reminded in this way that assembly is a time for reflective thought.

It is vital that an assembly has an enriching quality. This can be accomplished by associating the theme of the assembly with the experience of the pupils. This makes the experience relevant and real to them. Telling an inspiring story, such as the one by Oscar Wilde about The Selfish Giant, enables pupils to make connections with their own attitudes and behaviour. Also, relating your own personal experience to the theme of the assembly and drawing in other members of staff to comment can be enriching. Relating exciting experiences, such as being taken on the back of a modern motorbike dressed in appropriate kit, grabs the full attention of everyone. Describing the journey with all its thoughts, feelings and emotions uses a personal story to illustrate a theme that relates to real experiences. Such communication techniques help to connect the subject matter with the pupils own lives. Such connections are needed if they are to grasp the relevance to them of the values and principles discussed during assembly. We need them to say, Yes, I'll try that, I'll change to-day! Thus guidance and encouragement are prerequisites for enabling pupils to have that inner debate that modifies behaviour through self-regulation and self-discipline.

The leader of the assembly may also usefully reinforce the concept of the school as a community by telling groups that they have done well. Referring to positive examples of good behaviour or work creates a culture of success and high pupil self-esteem.

By involving the pupils, by changing the tone of voice or one's physical position pupil interest is maintained. For staff too the assembly is important, as they appreciate assemblies that are spiritually nourishing. The prayer or reflection, at the end of assembly, should encapsulate the learning objective of the assembly. Time is well spent working out appropriate wording. It need not be long! For instance: Help us to make our love unconditional and give it to others often. (The story would have explained the meaning of unconditional.) When the spiritual content of the assembly is present and relevant then the adults are affected positively too.

The benefits of an assembly of excellence to both individuals and the school in general are enormous. Effects can include:

  • heightened awareness of the needs of others;
  • greater sensitivity to the feelings of others;
  • raised self-esteem;
  • good behaviour based on self-discipline;
  • potential to heighten consciousness;
  • development of spiritual intelligence;
  • generating an ethos that is calm, happy and purposeful;
  • raising achievement and standards;
  • contributing to developing personal autonomy and contentment.

Such positive effects speak powerfully for the future development of assemblies. I do hope that the thoughts contained in this article will act as inspiration for others to explore the full educational potential of the assembly.

Neil Hawkes
Oxfordshire, UK

September 2000

Being a School of Excellence: The Role of Reflection

by Neil Hawkes

Download this article in PDF format pdf file

Advisory and Inspection Service, Cricket Road Centre, Cricket Road, Oxford OX4 3DW

To: Headteachers of all schools/units
cc: Advisers, Officers, Advisory Teachers

Tel: 01865:428117 Fax: 01865 428118

26 January 2001

Dear Colleague,

Being a School of Excellence: The Role of Reflection

Last term I sent you a paper that gave ideas about how to develop a school assembly from a values based perspective. This term I am pleased to send you a paper on the role of reflection. So many schools are finding that by introducing reflection as a teaching strategy they are creating a classroom climate that encourages pupils to be more responsible for themselves and their work.

I do hope that you will find, like me, the experience of Karen Errington, Windmill First School and Alison Williams, Bartholomew School, to be inspiring. I commend the work to you.

Yours sincerely,

Neil Hawkes
Senior Adviser

Introduction - The importance of stillness and reflection

During the past few years a number of Oxfordshire teachers have been developing an effective teaching technique known as reflection. They have found that by using it their teaching has become both more effective and enjoyable. Karen Errington, from Windmill First School in Oxford and Alison Williams from Bartholomew Secondary School at Eynsham have carefully developed reflection as a key aspect of their teaching and I am delighted to enclose their articles which I recommend for your serious consideration as you look to develop effective practice in your own school or class. I recognise that many teachers will be using the technique, particularly during assembly times, but what follows I hope will help either, those who want to get started or those who want to refine and develop their practice of reflection.

Behind this work is the realisation that it is important to create quiet reflective times in the classroom. A period of silence at the beginning of a lesson followed by a simple reflection, when the children are asked to consider and reflect on the work that they are about to do or have completed, is an excellent technique to develop positive thinking skills. The use of reflection develops the imaginative side of the brain that promotes creativity and problem solving. Periods of stillness help to create a learning-centred atmosphere that allows each child to have the opportunity to achieve success. The classroom's quiet and reflective atmosphere is not something that is imposed but grows out of the expectations and behaviour of the teacher. A more reflective atmosphere can be promoted, especially in more challenging classrooms, by using appropriate music during working periods that helps to develop a peaceful atmosphere. If we are clear in our own minds about the aim of a reflection i.e. to relax, calm and still; to focus the mind, create some mental space and get in touch with our inner-selves; then it is of prime importance to become aware that we as teachers are the primary participant and a role model to the pupils. If they are to be stilled and calmed the teacher must be that first! If they are to be focused the teacher must be totally focused too!

Key skills

Using reflection promotes an atmosphere that raises achievement and encourages quality in all aspect of schoolwork. In order to be effective the teacher needs to be self reflective and confident. She needs to be able to model what she expects in the pupils. (Authenticity is so important here as the pupils will spot inconsistencies. Being real and accepting that none of us is perfect is important to share with the pupils.) The teacher should also be a good listener, should respect pupils and develop positive relationships with each one. Socratic questioning using questioning to enable pupils to develop their thinking - is also a key teaching skill that bridges the gap between what a pupil needs to know and then understands.

Developing responsibility for learning

Reflection aids the development of good relationships between pupils and between adults and pupils. It promotes the climate for pupils to take responsibility for their learning. The teacher's responsibility is to focus on developing an attitude of mind in the pupil that encourages them to take responsibility. Pupils, as do staff, need positive affirmation. The ideal atmosphere in the classroom supports the notion that teacher and pupil are joint partners in the learning process. This attitude creates a feeling of equal respect and a relationship of working together. 

Teachers are most effective when they are giving pupils appropriate questions to consider that extend their thinking. Sufficient time to reflect on teacher questions before being required to answer is so very important in discursive lessons. If not given, the pupil searches for a quick answer that will satisfy the teacher. If the answer is incorrect, then the teacher is likely to ask another more simple question, and so on, until the pupil answers a question correctly. This practice is of limited value in helping the pupil to develop appropriate reflective thinking skills. Reflection gives the pupil times to practice being aware of their thoughts and through this awareness develop both depth and quality. I commend the remarks of the pupils in Years 4 and 11 who give their views about reflection.

In the following two case studies Karen and Alison share their experience of teaching reflection. I am sure that you will find their experience very compelling and want to have a go! Please remember to start with yourself for the more that you are calm and reflective the more the pupils will be too!

Neil Hawkes
Senior Adviser

A Time for Reflection

Karen Errington, Windmill First School, Oxford

I have no doubt that my effectiveness as a teacher has been greatly enhanced because I have introduced my pupils to periods of quiet reflection. I demand high standards from the pupils and myself and I have found that the techniques that I talk about in this article have been central to achieving them. In this article written for you the teacher I have outlined:

  • some of the reasons why I continue to make time for reflection within the school day;
  • Year 4 pupil responses to reflection times;
  • suggestions for introducing pupils to the reflection process;
  • some tips to ensure your success should you be tempted to try!

Do you recognise this scene?

Sam and Eric having just had a go at each other in the playground were escorted into class by the senior lunch supervisor. Another child, Suzy is standing next to me sobbing because she says that everyone hates her. Initially the afternoon did not look promising!

Emotions were spiralling out of control and I needed to restore calm and a sense of purpose. If I failed in this I knew that the afternoon would neither be productive or pleasant. At this point I asked the pupils to sit; either close their eyes or focus on a spot on the floor and be very still. I quietly explained that I wanted to give everyone the opportunity to calm down and make the right choices, as I felt some children were about to make choices that may make them feel miserable. Within minutes, the atmosphere of the class had changed from one of tension and diversity to one of calm and unity.

I led the class in a reflection, creating through my words a positive, calm atmosphere in the room. Between pauses I posed questions for the children 'Think of a pleasant moment at playtime either from today or last week. Why did it feel good? What did you do to make it enjoyable? Was today's play as good? Why? If not, how could you have acted differently?'

I finished the reflection on a positive note asking the pupils to feel the joy of love, friendship from another child, parent or adult. After a concluding moment of stillness the children opened their eyes ... now more relaxed, focussed and in control of their emotions, ready to concentrate on their afternoon lessons.

This process took about two to three minutes and had a dramatic impact upon the class. This quiet time offered the children a chance to enter their inner worlds and to explore their actions and feelings. Without the external pressure of others judging them, they are more likely to be honest with themselves. This 'time out' gives the children an opportunity to learn about themselves, gain control over their emotions and refocus their thoughts in a positive way.

The use of reflection at these times has particularly made my role as a teacher easier. However, I should make clear at this point that my class have worked hard to develop the skill of reflection - it needs to be built up slowly but is a technique worth developing.

I also use silent sitting to enable pupils to become more involved in a lesson. For example before leading a discussion on caring for animals I asked each child to sit still and to close their eyes and to 'see' their favourite animal being happy ... eating ... moving freely ... and to consider what made it so unique. The children then opened their eyes and listened to a story of an adult mistreating a wild animal. When the story finished I asked each child to consider why the adult hurt the animal. Did he not realise animals feel pain, and can enjoy life?

Often during class discussions pupils are expected to make instant responses with little thinking time allowed. Careful delivery of questions giving the pupils space and time to reach deeper answers is another important feature of reflection.

Time for reflection can further encourage the development of the pupils' awareness of themselves and others, and the role they play in making positive relationships. For example, after a story of two giants losing their temper I asked the pupils to reflect on whether the giants' actions were justified. I then extended their thinking by asking the pupils to consider a time when they lost their temper and whether their actions were reasonable and helped the situation.

Reflection times also provide an excellent forum for raising pupils' self-esteem and helping pupils to recognise positive attributes in each other. I praise and thank the class for their enthusiasm and efforts and make anonymous references to pupils and praising and thanking them too. Whilst doing this fleeting smiles cross faces and I perhaps receive the odd look in my direction. Reflection time in this way enables me to focus on and acknowledge class and individual efforts.

I also use reflection to focus the pupils' minds on key learning objectives either at the start or end of a lesson. When the pupils feel relaxed and calm, they are more likely to concentrate on the lesson and be open to learning.

Lastly, I believe reflection is beneficial for its own sake. During each day pupils and adults are bombarded with thousands of messages from the outside and thousands of their own thoughts from the inside! We are told a healthy lifestyle is all about 'balance', and yet in our busy lives there is little to redress the fast pace, and potentially high stress levels that we face. I believe a few minutes silent sitting helps to restore a small amount of peace to balance all our lives. This process reinforces my view that true happiness comes from within and is not synonymous with buying entertainment!

Periods of reflection enable me to return to the fundamental reason I became an educator, that of making a difference to someone's life, and to the education of character.

I would highly recommend it for both your pupils and yourself!

Introducing pupils to reflection

Explain carefully

  1. What will happen? Tell pupils reflection will involve:

    1-2 minutes of listening and paying attention to their thoughts and feelings. Sitting still and relaxed. (Acknowledge reflection is challenging and needs practice.)

  2. What you expect from pupils. Tell pupils you want them to:

    - privately consider the questions or statements posed;
    - be honest and open with themselves ... they won't be made to share their reflection thoughts;
    - take this activity seriously and if they are finding it difficult, not to disturb anyone else.

  3. Why reflection is worth doing

    - Makes explicit the link between a pupil's state of mind and mental/physical performance.
    - Makes explicit the link between self-discipline and enhanced achievement e.g. footballers, athletes, actors, politicians.
    - Silent sitting enables individuals to quieten their mind and body and be peaceful. From this state individuals can more ably consider issues and develop their inner thoughts.

  4. How to sit

    - Ask children to face you, with back and head straight but relaxed (do not face children opposite each other);
    - explain how holding left hand in right hand and placing both in lap 'magically' helps still the rest of the body;
    - ask pupils to close eyes or focus on a spot on the floor;
    - tell pupils you will watch and see how well they manage the reflection. (Explain that when they have mastered the art of reflection you will participate too.)

  5. Answer pupil questions

    Ask pupils if there are any questions. When questions are answered begin your reflection.

My key reasons for using reflection times include:

  1. Helping to create balance in pupils' lives.
  2. Giving the pupils a technique that will help them to be calm and to be focussed
  3. Increasing the personal involvement in a lesson by developing empathy and by jointly exploring ideas.
  4. Giving opportunities to reflect deeply whilst searching for more meaningful answers.
  5. Encouraging self-awareness and understanding of others.
  6. Focussing on the main learning objectives either at the start or end of a lesson.
  7. Developing pupils' self-esteem and self-discipline.
  8. Developing pupils' emotional intelligence and thereby raising achievement and standards.
  9. Giving the teacher the peace of mind that the whole child is being developed and educated i.e. body, mind and spirit.
  10. To return the joy to teaching because it becomes easier as the pupils become more internally motivated.

This is what my Year 4 pupils say about reflection times:

  • It is a time just to be calm and relaxed.
  • It gives your brain time to think and you don't have everyone butting in all the time.
  • I feel like a peaceful river.
  • It's a time for you.
  • I felt silly to start with but now I'm used to it. I like it, I don't know why!


  • If some pupils laugh calmly and quietly ask all the pupils to open their eyes and enquire, "Why do you think some people are finding this difficult' Acknowledge it may seem strange sitting like this but that it will become easier with practice. Invite those pupils to try again or sit out. (I have only ever had one pupil sit out and he joined in again soon.)

  • Start with short reflections (1 minute) and gradually build up to longer sessions (5 minutes).

  • With challenging classes stickers could be given to several individuals for effort/involvement in reflection.

  • Creating the right atmosphere dimming classroom lights and lighting a candle can help make reflection time feel special. Music can also help create a calm and reflective mood.

  • You, as teacher need to model how to sit and show you take the activity seriously through tone of voice and well-planned reflections. Never attempt to do anything else during a reflection other than model the behaviour you require.

At the end thank pupils for their participation and efforts

  • At the close of a session try dismissing pupils individually and in silence by a very subtle eye movement. This encourages pupils to have direct eye contact with you and it ensures you acknowledge each child at least once a day!

Reflection Time in Secondary School

Alison Williams, Bartholomew School, Eynsham

One of the tasks I set myself over the last year was to use ideas used in the primary classroom in secondary school. I have visited seven primary schools in the Oxford area, and observed behaviour and classroom activities similar to those described by Karen Errington. Among these were values lessons, whole class work in literacy and numeracy, assemblies and circle time. In transferring some of the quiet, listening activities of these primary schools, I have developed a secondary style reflective activity called focus time. This is a description of how it happens.

The experience of reflection in the classroom

The students are coming up the stairs to my room. It is a year 11 non-exam class. I have taught year 7 and 9 already today, and over lunch it will be homework detentions and after that year 11 again. I hear murmurs of 'hello miss', and a few eyes meet mine at the door.

I am tired and feel I need strength to face this bubbling and energetic group. I may have to be very firm, and I know I can't win them all, but I want to get the best out of them and they have the best out of me.

Inside the room, I am faced with a choice. Before we start, do I fulfil the school uniform policy, and nag them about shirts, ties and baseball caps? Do I get into the argument of coats off ?. 'Miss, but it's cold in here'?. 'Everyone, I said?.' Do I give out books and see the eyes hunt for the grade - ignoring the helpful comment I wrote? Will I get into the wearisome round of 'everyone stop talking', and have to work very hard to draw them into the world of thought, without getting irritated and frustrated myself?

There is another way.

Instead, I try this start to my lesson.

Before bringing the students into the room, I put on music. I am using a CD called Time for Peace. Enya works well, as do Buddhist and Gregorian chants. The tables are empty. They will find no distraction when they come in. On the board I may have written a values word, for example, "respect", "tolerance"; or a statement: It is human to ask questions.? 

I take a deep breath and open the door. 

As they enter, I try to meet everyone's eyes, mentioning many by name, and using words like 'Welcome, come in and get comfortable.' As the pupils sit down, I move around the room and talk quietly to each, over their chatter, asking them again to make themselves comfortable and to settle down. The chatter turns to "What's that noise?" We thought you had a choir in the room, Miss!?

I will not tackle uniform and hats yet. I will not give them the books yet. Gradually, the chatter stops and the music quietly dominates. I return to the front, and sit down.

My first words are, as I gaze around the students, 'It's good to see you all'.

I ask the class to try to get as comfortable in the chairs as they can, and to listen to the music. I ask a pupil to put a focus time label on the door. This asks visitors to wait for 2 or 3 minutes, as we are having a quiet time. I talk so they can hear me; if necessary the music is turned down a little. I tell them I want them to feel relaxed - despite the rushed and busy day they have had. I tell them that our lesson is a time to share ideas, to reflect, and to think about life. I may, at this point, refer briefly to the topic we are going to cover.

I then encourage them to relax their breathing by asking them (without noise) to breathe in for a count of four and out for four, and we all listen to the music for 30 seconds or so.

The room becomes very calm. I want each pupil to feel self-esteem, so I begin talking quietly, over the music, reminding them of the good things we have done in previous lessons. I point out their skills and their strengths; for example, the way they feel happy to speak and share, the way they will try to find different points of view. I encourage them to think of their contribution as positive - even behaviour like calling out in discussions is positive, because it reflects their energy and interest.

Then I talk in more detail about the lesson and the skills they are going to use. I encourage them to think about how they are going to change each other's lives by the ideas they will talk about, and the way they will be thinking. This time of reflection is creating a positive feeling and cohesive mood.

I invite them to use the focus time remaining minute to relax and listen to the music, before we energise into the lesson.

At this point, I either let them sit and listen to the music, or start quietly to give out books and lesson equipment. The murmur of chat begins to grow but I do not have to force my presence on it, I am in charge. Where possible I do not argue, and do not let my voice say things in a negative way.

Now I can begin the routine of register, and uniform. The focus time label is removed. The mood has altered subtly. They are tuned in, I am relaxed, and whatever else may happen, we have had a positive start to the lesson. The value of the individual, and the strengths of the group have been the focus of the first five minutes.

This is a frequent feature of my classroom in all secondary ages, years 7-13. I do this activity with some classes more than others. I have used pasta shapes or dried beans, or glittery stars, or shells and pebbles to help them with the focus. Thinking about a good thing in your life and about your achievements is easier when you have an object to link it to.

I have used reflection activities to draw out the targets of a lesson. This involves explaining in some detail the work the pupils will do, during this quiet time, and then asking pupils to think of helpful targets for the lesson. I ask for volunteers to write the suggestions on the flipchart; they may nominate a friend to do that for them. The targets stay visible for the whole lesson. Suggestions like 'We will try to help each other' or 'Listen to what everyone says' are frequently suggested, but valuable because they have chosen them, not me.

I have also used creative visualisation, imagination and empathy or use of poetry or song to create a thinking space for the students in the classroom.

Key reasons for using reflection and focus time

  • It is an opportunity to focus the pupils, and calm them ready for study
  • It is a time to enhance pupil self-esteem, and help them to feel positive about each other
  • It is an opportunity to consider the targets and skills which will be used in the lesson ... to set the scene for the lesson
  • It encourages pupils to spend time with their thoughts and to acknowledge the strengths they have
  • If used as a closing activity, it encourages recognition of the learning that has taken place.

Justification for the use of this time in lessons

In secondary school, when time is under pressure with exam results and academic achievement, it is not surprising that this activity might be seen as a waste of time. In my experience, it has both helped me have a better attitude in my classroom, a more positive working atmosphere and a more focused lesson with all ages of students. It can be five minutes or even ten if the pupils get very caught up in the target setting, but the time is well spent because they are tuned into the work, instead of coming to it cold. Thus, it is not a waste of time? In fact the opposite.

What year 11 have said about reflection and Focus Time

  • I think that focus time is a good idea. It relaxes everyone and allows you to forget everything else around you. It makes you think this is now my lesson and I am free to experiment with ideas, and form my own opinion on the world around me.

  • Focus time is good because it lets you relax which doesn?t really happen in school. Especially at the end of the day, it helps you to reflect on what has happened.

  • It is a good idea. It may not have a deep meaning for me and the music isn?t to my personal taste; however, it gives us a few minutes of rest and clear thought, outside the hustle and bustle of the school day ... nice.

  • I think that focus time is good because it helps us to concentrate better.

  • I think that music used in this way is very worthwhile and should be used throughout the school in all classes. I wish I had had something like this in the lower years.

There are many values that I aim to refer to with the classes. Values are used in primary schools and often referred to in assembly, such as honesty, tolerance, caring, and trust. In the past they have not have much of a focus in secondary schools, mostly because teachers are embarrassed about using such language in secondary classrooms. As curriculum continuity is becoming so important between primary and secondary schools in areas such as literacy and numeracy so it is in the social, moral, spiritual and cultural aspects. The practice I use builds on the experience that the pupils have had in their primary school and continues to develop it. I use the following concepts in the reflection time of my classes.

  • Self esteem / personal confidence
  • Listening and understanding
  • Self respect
  • Respect for other's views
  • Desire to help others
  • Giving to others
  • Importance of thinking and learning new ideas
  • Keeping an open mind
  • Being a role model to younger pupils

Focus time has made my teaching more enjoyable and effective. I believe that the students gain much more from my lessons because they feel that they are fully participating in them and are being taken seriously as people. Acknowledging the importance of their inner personal worlds has led to a subtle change in our relationship that has meant that behaviour is mutually respectful. I thoroughly recommend the development of focus time.

The role of reflection is the second paper in a series about being a school of excellence. The first was about the role of the school assembly. Further copies of both papers may be attained by contacting Anne Marks at AIS on 01865 428117.

Facilitating Language, Facilitating Learning

by Sue Emery

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TESOL Macedonia-Thrace, 7th Annual Convention - 15th to 17th October, 1999
The University of Macedonia, Thessaloniki, Greece

1 Introduction
2 The Educator
3 Traditional Teaching Methods
4 Understanding Learning
5 The Educator's New Role
6 Facilitation Skills
7 Conclusions

1 Introduction

Working in an environment where language teaching and learning is exam-oriented, it is easy for the educator to forget some of the basic human elements of the teaching profession. Moreover, if we take a close look at the fairly high rate of failure in the exams, then it is obvious that there is room for the educator to make some changes and to improve the situation. This workshop shows how the changing role of the teacher can help the language learner in a practical way to fulfill his/her potential. It also shows the teacher how to develop his/her 'new' role.

Before going any further, I would like you to ask yourselves one question: "How does the way I teach affect the language learner?" I hope that by the end of the workshop there will be some changes in the way you answer this question.

2 The Educator

There are three important factors that educators need to be aware of before setting foot inside the classroom:

1.1 The educator is a member of a caring profession. Teaching is service-oriented and, therefore, the quality of the service provided is of utmost importance. Is the product (the English language) of the right quality for the customer (the learner)?

1.2 The educator is the one who understands the subject being taught. We are the ones who have the knowledge and so our main role as educators is to share this knowledge. Do I share my knowledge with my students, or do I force them to learn just for the sake of a goal (the exam)?

1.3 The word 'facilitate' when translated into Greek (διευκολύνω) means to make something easy. As a facilitator in my classroom am I making learning easy for my students or do I make their lives difficult?

3 Traditional Teaching Methods

Traditionally, the educator's role was manifested through conductive teaching methods, where transactions in the classroom were teacher-centered. It was a case of "I am the teacher, so I know best". In terms of language teaching, this often meant teaching lots of grammar and vocabulary as well as doing a lot of drills and exercises. No regard was given to the real needs of the student.

As further developments in education evolved, the shift from teacher to student became more apparent. Using a more deductive approach, students were given some responsibility and encouraged to work things out for themselves. However, although students were motivated to come to their own conclusions, they were still very much molded to particular ways of thinking and doing to suit the convenience of the educator, the institution or the requirements of examinations. Many of the books we are using at school today use the deductive approach, which is not bad in itself, but it remains limited and does not necessarily help students learn effectively or without 'pain'.

Following on from this, an inductive approach was deemed more appropriate in that it enabled students to fulfill their potential by way of a process of self discovery. In following this method, it was assumed that the educator had the capacity to accept the student's strengths and weaknesses and to allow the student freedom to build upon these. Unfortunately, because this type of approach requires a lot more flexibility on the part of the educator, it has not always been welcomed with open arms.

With these changes in approach, it has been seen that the role of the educator has become more one of facilitator than teacher, which requires a completely different set of tactics in the classroom. The facilitator's first step is to initiate and to create the right atmosphere for the child to learn in. Next the facilitator needs to observe the child's response to its learning environment and then respond to the child in an appropriate manner. This in turn requires that the educator works through the process that is needed with the child as a partner. In order for such a change in role to take place, the educator needs to have clear focus and a specific set of attitudes and values.

4 Understanding Learning

How do we normally plan our lessons? Most teachers will agree that the lesson has three main stages: presentation, practise and reinforcement. Let's look at these in more detail.

4.1 Presentation
We take a point of grammar that we want the student to learn, we find a lively and relevant way to present it to the student and we expect instant understanding. The presentation part of the lesson is the part that works with the conceptual or rational aspect of the mind. I will call this the 'head'.

4.2 Practise
Once we feel the learner has understood the point we are trying to teach, then we get them to practise in a variety of ways. The practice part of the lesson works with the emotional aspect of the learner. Let us call this the 'heart'.

4.3 Reinforcement
Having understood and practiced the grammar and vocabulary, we expect the student to have assimilated all this ready to put it into everyday use. We will call this 'direct experience'.

What I have just described might be called an ideal (or text book) lesson plan. Of course, most of the books we are using follow such a plan so teachers nowadays don't even have to plan their lessons. If they have a good teacher's book to go with the course books or skills books, then there really isn't too much to think about, is there?

So why do students fail? Why are teachers and learners frustrated? I believe it's because we are not addressing the real needs of the learner and we are definitely not making life easy for anyone in the classroom.

5 The Educator's New Role

If things are not working as they should be, then there must be room for change. In fact, the modern educator needs to understand that his/her role has changed. As mentioned at the beginning, the new role comprises three main factors: initiation, observation and response. Let us look at these in some detail.

5.1 Initiate
The educator's first step is to create a positive learning atmosphere. At this point, we are not just talking about having a pleasant physical space where the lesson takes place. Rather, we need to understand two specific skills that the educator needs in order to become a successful facilitator. By understanding these, the educator will be able to initiate the learning process. What are these two skills? First is the ability to listen accurately and the second is to have an attitude of availability.

Activity 1
Give each participant a sheet of paper and ask them to draw a picture of a child in the middle of it and then to draw or write around the outside of the paper what environment they would like to provide for the child. Then work in pairs to discuss the question: What part do I play in the learner's environment?

Activity 2
We will use a process of visualisation to answer the question: Do I understand the learner's needs?

Imagine that the room I am in is empty and nobody is around ... Now I see myself as a small child ... as innocent as a rose that is just beginning to bloom ... I am curious, but a little shy ... I am mischievous, but I am looking for approval ... I am looking for people, for things, to experiment with ... I see myself as a child ... walking into this room, this classroom ... It is an empty room? ... I stand for a while, waiting, holding onto my bag ... I hold my lunch box close to my heart ... I look around, wide-eyed and lost ... and then I hear a voice asking ...What do you need, child?? ... and I sit in the middle of the room and make a list of what I really need, feeling comforted that somebody wants to know what I want ....

These two activities show how accurate listening means understanding what position I come from and what position the learner comes from.

5.2 Observe
The next step for the educator is to observe how learners respond to their 'new' learning environment. To observe the learner means to recognise the potential within the student and to accept the learner's response, whatever it may be. For example, if you are doing oral work in a group and one student remains silent, how often do you tell students "If you don't speak, you won't learn" or "If you don't speak, the examiner won't be able to give you a mark"? These are, in fact, subtle threats that do not promote learning, neither do they encourage the student. Let me, as the educator, understand why sometimes a student is quiet and accept the situation as it is. I can encourage, but I don't need to force.

Activity 3
Individually, think about any aspects that you don't like in the students you are teaching and what changes you would like to bring about in them. Then work in threes to think about WAYS in which to bring about the desired changes. Bear in mind two questions:

What is the learner's potential?

How flexible is my attitude?

5.3 Respond
The final, and most important, step is for the educator to develop a method of working with the student as a partner in his/her learning process. Often, teachers are the ones to wield power in the classroom: they are the ones who have accumulated knowledge, they control the teaching situation, they are the authority in all senses of the word and they donate that knowledge to the learner. However, there are other ways of doing things. In fact, there are two main responses to a learner: the direct response and the indirect response.

Activity 4
Work in pairs to answer the questions:

Do I give advice or instructions?

Do I make suggestions or ask questions?

When you have done this, think of a lesson you are planning to teach tomorrow and devise a completely new way of giving this lesson (e.g. Will you consult the learner first' What cooperation will you generate in the classroom?). Share your practical examples with one other pair.

6 Facilitation Skills

To be a good facilitator we need three skills: balance, silence and the willingness to change. There has to be a balance between rules (the head) and creativity (the heart) and learning, especially language learning, needs a period of silence in which to absorb the newly learnt material. This silence is not necessarily physical silence, but it can be in the form of allowing time for new facts to be absorbed before rushing on to another grammar point just because it's the next unit in the book, or because an exam is looming on the horizon. Change is necessary, but it takes effort - isn't it easier to carry on doing things the way you have always done them? However, the results will also remain the same. Change also requires give and take - let me learn from my students, too.

7 Conclusions

While educators are under pressure to fulfill the needs of their syllabus and requirements for examination courses, they are also in a position to bring about change and a positive learning experience for their students. By working on the role of facilitator they will make life easier for themselves and for their students and, in such an atmosphere, the learners will make more progress.

Sue Emery is an honours graduate in Language and Linguistics and has over 15 years experience teaching French, EFL, ESP and EAP and several years' experience training educators in communicative methodology and values education. Sue has taught in France, the UK and Greece and has published several course books and skills books for Pre-FCE and FCE levels. She has trained teachers in the UK, France, Greece, Turkey and India. She has also taught computing and typewriting skills to adults on a Back-to-Work programme and teaches English to adult refugees on a voluntary basis. Sue is coordinator for Greece for the Living Values Education (LVE) and is the Editor for New Editions publishing house.

Values Education and Life-wide Learning: Learning About Values

by Christopher Drake

Paper for the Sixteenth Annual Conference of The Hong Kong Educational Research Association
"Exploring New Frontiers in Education", Hong Kong, China, October 1999

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As humanity stands at the threshold of the frontier to a new millennium, one distinguishing feature of the land ahead is that life will be full of many challenges. The world of tomorrow will almost certainly be more demanding than that of today. An information explosion, technology, increased social and environmental problems, new demands for ethical responsibility and accountability, the relentless pace of change, internationalization, demographics and a new global consciousness are all exerting new pressures on the individual and world society as a whole.

Remarkable progress has been made in some areas of life for some people but such afflictions as pollution, poverty, injustice, violence and ignorance remain and, in this globalized world, they cannot be ignored by anyone. Increasingly, a fresh concept of learning is being seen as indispensable to our further progress, and indeed survival. Education is being called on not only to provide a nurturing life-line for the self but also to pave the way to overall human development and well-being: to trail-blaze a broad path of learning for all that begins, at the latest, in the cradle and never ends. On this new vision of learning, and consequent new levels of understanding and awareness, we have laid our hopes and aspirations for a world of peace, prosperity and harmony.

For this vision of learning to be translated into action, we must explore new frontiers of education and open rich new seams of understanding. Our understanding must not only extend out to the changing world around us but first of all must reach inwards to the unchanging inner self so that we can develop and grow as whole human beings, with a clear sense of self-identity and integrity, and thus realize our full potential. And if we wish to extend our horizon to encompass an advanced tomorrow we must not overlook the fundamentals; learning is as much about truth and life as knowledge and living. The concept of learning as a life-long process was firmly established by Learning to Be, the 1972 report of the Faure Commission, but attention now needs to focus on the width and depth of our education as much as on its length. As Learning: The Treasure Within, the 1996 report to UNESCO of the International Commission on Education for the Twenty-first Century by Jacques Delors et al., states: "Choosing a type of education means choosing a type of society". Thus, narrow and shallow education will only lead to narrow and shallow minds and people; surely our destiny must be more than this.

The quality of life, standards of living and overall well-being of society depend to a large extent on the values it lives by and the quality of choices that are made by the individuals within it. Education must address the whole person, and include the ethical and personal; these dimensions of learning must be seen to be at least as essential as the conventional basic components of education and intellectual development.

The World Declaration on Education for All, produced at the 1990 World Conference on Education for All at Jomtien, Thailand, defines basic learning needs as comprising "both essential learning tools (such as literacy, oral expression, numeracy and problem solving) and the basic learning content (such as knowledge, skills, values and attitudes) required by human beings to be able to survive, to develop their full capacities, to live and work in dignity, to participate fully in development, to improve the quality of their lives, to make informed decisions and to continue learning."

Life tomorrow, and indeed today, is thus marked by the need for a tremendous breadth of personal capacity and the ability to make informed and balanced choices: choices we make as individuals in our own right, exercising our freewill, and also as members of society and the world community. The new frontiers that the world is facing demand that education reform itself.

It is clear that learning must be a life-long process but it also needs to be life-wide and life-deep: it must address the whole person and give individuals a breadth and depth of personality and personal skills in their preparation for life. The era that we are hurtling into is of a knowledge-based e-world but as everyone becomes an instant intellectual, in one way or another, we must not overlook personal and social maturity. As well as nurturing intellectual development, education must help individuals identify, and adopt, personal and social values that they can call on to guide the decisions they make, their relationships, work and life as a whole. It must help them develop a depth of character and a clear sense of their own identity, integrity and what they believe to be important in life. We must learn, and keep learning, about the rights we have as individuals but also about the responsibilities that go with them and the values that are the building blocks of rights and responsibilities.

As important as the task itself is how we learn about and teach these values. Young minds have energy, drive and curiosity but need guidance and road-markers if their journey towards maturity and wisdom is to be secure and successful. Such guidance should respect and reflect the dignity, individuality and freedom of reflective and critical choice of the learner.

Values such as respect, responsibility, love, honesty, tolerance and cooperation must not just be thrown down at youth from on-high but role-modelled and practically experienced if they are to be freely inculcated and become part of the instinctive and spontaneous behaviour of young people. In a suitable environment, youth can learn, acquire and express such values and corresponding attitudes, habits and behaviour. Indeed young minds are often a more fertile ground within which such values may grow and flourish and in preparing the world citizens of the 21st century, education must have human, moral and spiritual principles and values at its heart, and the resulting expression of them as its aim.

Addressing this need, Living Values Education offers a package of materials containing practical methodologies and tools for use by teachers, and parents, to help children to explore and develop twelve key personal and social values. The twelve values specifically covered in the Program are:

Cooperation Freedom Happiness Honesty Humility Love Peace Respect Responsibility Simplicity Tolerance Unity

The Program materials have been developed by educators from around the world, in consultation with UNICEF's Education Cluster, with the support of UNESCO and the sponsorship of the Spanish Committee for UNICEF, UNESCO's Planet Society and an international non-governmental organization, the Brahma Kumaris. The Program's approach is experiential, participatory and flexible, allowing it to be adapted according to varying cultural, social and other circumstances. It also contains special modules for use by parents and care-givers and for refugees. At these turbulent times, education can no longer limit itself, whether by content, gender bias or age cut-off, but must transcend these frontiers and become an inclusive learning process that embraces the family and community, as well as the classroom, as places of learning. In a world teeming with poverty, deprivation and insecurity of many kinds, the maximization of all inner personal resources is essential and life-long and life-wide learning means that all within society are engaged in learning, for themselves and others - a true learning society.

The Program provides a means for educators around the world to collaborate - creating, sharing and dialoguing as they work with a variety of values-based educational experiences. This cooperative partnership has produced positive results in a variety of educational settings, as described in more detail below. The Program's contents are varied and include reflections and discussions as well as games and other practical activities for use within school curricula and other educational contexts.

The common element among these activities is that all have values at their core. Some then create situations of simultaneous teaching and learning where values become tools for building, sharing and integrating - where learning is an expression of what we believe in and live for. Allowing children and young adults to explore and understand values while immersed in their daily school experience, the Program is based on the view that each human being has the potential for peaceful and loving attitudes and actions and to grow and learn new life-skills. When educators create open, flexible, creative, and yet orderly, values-based environments, students will naturally move closer to understanding their own values and develop their own way of thinking.

The Program's vision is of people living together in a world of inclusion in which there is respect and appreciation for each culture. Its activities aim to help children and young adults learn to perceive, understand and act in ways that promote peace, justice and harmonious coexistence and respect diversity.

It is only with values such as these that humanity will be able to comprehend, face and resolve the challenges in today's world.

The purpose of Living Values is to provide guiding principles and tools for the development of the whole person, recognizing that the individual is comprised of physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual dimensions.

Its aims are:

  • To help individuals think about and reflect on different values and the practical implications of expressing them in relation to themselves, others, the community and the world at large;

  • To deepen understanding, motivation and responsibility with regard to making positive personal and social choices;

  • To inspire individuals to choose their own personal, social, moral and spiritual values and be aware of practical methods for developing and deepening them; and

  • To encourage educators and caregivers to look at education as providing students with a philosophy of living, thereby facilitating their overall growth, development and choices so they may integrate themselves into the community with respect, confidence and purpose.

The practical outcome of using Living Values activities in schools, and an awareness of the changes that can come about, are helping to strengthen appreciation of the benefits, relevance and necessity of values in the classroom. This in turn is highlighting the crucial role to be played by educators, as education must be values-based if it is to provide the indispensable preparation that is needed for life in a challenging world. The demands that are being imposed on front-line teachers and their need for training, materials and support cannot be underestimated. It is hoped that Living Values materials, and a supporting network, can help educationalists in meeting the challenges that they are being looked on to deal with. But policy-makers, public authorities, parents and educators must come together and work together. Only then will it be possible to deliver empowering values-based education, without which formal education may lack purpose and direction and is certainly incomplete. World society is constantly crossing new frontiers and education must take the lead in this regard in order to give direction to the way ahead as we journey forwards in search of a better tomorrow.

Values Education and Human Rights: Living Values Education in Asia

by Christopher Drake

Published in Human Rights Education in Asian Schools, Volume Four, March 2001,
by Asia-Pacific Human Rights Information Center, Japan

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United Nations - Universal Declaration of Human Rights


Each time we look at the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it offers us a timely reminder of the fundamental human standards that we all want, and need, to live by. It remains one of the most inspiring documents written in recent times and its simple truths constitute a basic blueprint for daily life, reminding us of our rights and also the responsibilities that we have toward our fellow human beings. Recognition of these rights and responsibilities is the foundation of freedom, justice, and peace in the world. Yet over 50 years after the Declaration's proclamation by the United Nations General Assembly, and despite its widespread endorsement and actions to uphold it, human rights continue to be violated on an international, social, professional, and interpersonal level.

The vision of what we want to achieve-the universal observance of fundamental rights and freedoms-is clear. The Declaration is a vision that has now been endorsed by governments, championed by organizations, and claimed by individuals worldwide. And yet, notwithstanding its universality, its standards are often relegated to the backseat of social progress, leaving exploitation, violence, and injustice to prevail in one form or another. It is as if the link between aspiration and action, between principle and practice, has been severed, exposing a gap between what we believe and accept as correct and what we actually do.

This raises the question of why we are unable to do that which we want to do: to implement clear and cherished aspirations that make for a better quality of life for all. The aspirations of the Declaration may be high, but are they really beyond our reach? They are certainly neither physically nor financially impossible and they have widespread political acceptance; they embody a way of life, and values, which we all believe in and identify with. So how can we implement the common standards of achievement set out in the Declaration?

Education must undeniably be at the heart of our efforts and, along with other components of such education, there should be a greater focus on the value system that is the framework around which the Declaration has been crafted.

Effective human rights education must help individuals identify and adopt personal and social values that they can call on to guide their decisions, relationships, work, and life as a whole. It must help them develop a depth of character and a clear sense of their own identity, integrity, and what they believe to be important in life.

Given the universality of human values and rights, it follows that education can no longer limit itself, whether by content, gender bias, or age cut-off, but must transcend these frontiers. Education must become an inclusive, universal, lifelong learning process that embraces the family and community, as well as the classroom, as places of learning. In a world where rights are too often abused, leading to poverty, deprivation, and insecurity of many kinds, the maximization of all inner personal resources is essential. A values-based and rights-based approach to education requires that all within society are engaged in learning, for themselves and others.

We must learn, and keep learning, about the rights we have as individuals but also about the responsibilities that go with them. To do so, we must embrace the values that are the building blocks and the very essence of rights and responsibilities. We cannot truly understand rights and responsibilities without first understanding the values on which they are based.

As important as the task itself is how we learn about and teach these values. Young minds have energy, drive, and curiosity, but need guidance and road-markers if their journey toward responsible citizenship, maturity, and wisdom is to be secure and successful. Such guidance should respect and reflect the dignity, individuality, and freedom of reflective and critical choice of the learner. Values such as respect, responsibility, love, honesty, tolerance, and cooperation must not just be thrown down at youth from on-high but role-modeled and practically experienced if they are to be freely inculcated and become part of the instinctive and spontaneous behavior of young people. In a suitable environment, youth can learn, acquire, and express such values and corresponding attitudes, habits, and behavior. Indeed, young minds are often a more fertile ground within which such values may grow and flourish, and in preparing the world citizens of the 21st century, education must have human, moral, and spiritual principles and values at its heart, and the resulting expression of them as its aim.

Living Values

Addressing this need, Living Values Education offers a package of materials containing practical methodologies and tools for use by teachers and parents to enable children to explore and develop 12 key personal and social values-cooperation, freedom, happiness, honesty, humility, love, peace, respect, responsibility, simplicity, tolerance, and unity.

The program is a nonprofit partnership among educators from around the world. It is endorsed by UNESCO and sponsored by the Spanish National Committee of UNICEF, the Planet Society of UNESCO, and the Brahma Kumaris, an international nongovernmental organization (NGO), in consultation with the Education Cluster of UNICEF (New York).


The program grew out of an international project begun in 1995 by the Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University, an NGO in general consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations and in consultative status with UNICEF, to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the UN. Called Sharing Our Values for a Better World, the project focused on 12 core values. Its theme-adopted from a tenet of the Preamble of the United Nations' Charter-was "[t]o reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person." Living Values: A Guidebook was published as part of this project. It provided value statements on the 12 core values and included activities and facilitated workshops for creating and sustaining positive change. It also contained a small section on values activities for students in the classroom. That sketchy classroom curriculum became the inspiration and impetus for Living Values: An Educational Initiative.

Living Values was born when 20 educators from around the world gathered at UNICEF headquarters in New York City in August 1996 to discuss children's needs, the participants' experiences of working with values, and how they could integrate values into the process of lifelong learning. The meeting was co-sponsored by the Education Cluster of UNICEF and the Brahma Kumaris. Using the guidebook and the Convention on the Rights of the Child as a framework, the global educators identified and agreed upon the purpose and aims of values-based education worldwide in both developed and developing countries.

The educators were so motivated by this experience that they committed themselves to prepare the Teachers' Education Kit and to pilot it in their schools. As piloting spread to about 70 countries, the consensus was that the kit's contents could be developed into effective training and evaluation processes.

The program materials have been developed by educators from around the world, in consultation with UNICEF's Education Cluster, with the support of UNESCO and the sponsorship of the Spanish Committee for UNICEF, UNESCO's Planet Society, and Brahma Kumaris. The program's approach is experiential, participatory, and flexible, allowing it to be adapted according to varying cultural, social, and other circumstances. It also contains special modules for use by parents and caregivers and for refugees.

The program provides a means for educators around the world to collaborate-creating, sharing, and dialoguing as they work with a variety of values-based educational experiences. This cooperative partnership has produced positive results in a variety of educational settings, as described in more detail below. The program's contents are varied and include reflections and discussions as well as games and other practical activities for use within school curriculums and other educational contexts. The common element among these activities is that all have values at their core. Some then create situations of simultaneous teaching and learning where values become tools for building, sharing, and integrating-where learning is an expression of what we believe in and live for. Allowing children and young adults to explore and understand values while immersed in their daily school experience, the program is based on the view that each human being has the potential for peaceful and loving attitudes and actions and the right to grow and learn new life skills. When educators create open, flexible, creative, and yet orderly, values-based environments, students will naturally move closer to understanding their own values, rights, and responsibilities and develop their own way of thinking.

The program's vision is of people living together in a world of inclusion, in which there are respect and appreciation for each culture. Its activities aim to help children and young adults learn to perceive, understand, and act in ways that promote peace, justice, and harmonious coexistence, and respect diversity. It is only with values such as these that humanity will be able to comprehend, face, and resolve the challenges in today's world.

Purpose and Aims

The purpose of the program is to provide guiding principles and tools for the development of the whole person, recognizing that the individual is composed of physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual dimensions. Its aims are the following:

Help individuals think about and reflect on different values and the practical implications of expressing them in relation to themselves, others, the community, and the world at large.

  • Deepen understanding, motivation, and responsibility with regard to making positive personal and social choices.

  • Inspire individuals to choose their own personal, social, moral, and spiritual values and be aware of practical methods for developing and deepening them.

  • Encourage educators and caregivers to look at education as providing students with a philosophy of living, thereby facilitating their overall growth, development, and choices so they may integrate themselves into the community with respect, confidence, and purpose.

The objective of the program is to integrate universal core values in existing school curriculums. From this there may be built an enabling environment in which students can explore their innate values. This, in turn, can lead to the development of an ethos of peace and nonviolence within the classroom and school community. The program offers practical skills and tools to promote these core values and encourages its users to adapt them according to their cultural, religious, social, and other circumstances. The program aims at building an environment in which youth can be assisted in developing their self-identity from early childhood development, pre-, primary-, and secondary-school levels.


The initial version of the materials, the Educators' Kit, became available for piloting in March 1997, and by late spring that year it was being piloted at 220 sites in over 40 countries. By mid-1999, it was in use at over 1,500 sites in 62 countries. Following piloting, it was was divided into separate books and expanded, reflecting comments and including contributions from educators around the world. The books currently available are

  • Values Activities for Children, Ages 3-7,
  • Values Activities for Children, Ages 8-14,
  • Values Activities for Young Adults,
  • Facilitator's Guide for Parent Values Groups, and
  • Values Activities for Refugees and Children-Affected-by-War.

The first three books suggest reflective and visualization activities that encourage students to access their own creativity and inner gifts. Communication activities teach students to implement peaceful social skills. Artistic activities, songs, and dance inspire students to express themselves while experiencing the value of focus. Game-like activities are thought-provoking and fun; the discussion time that follows them helps students explore effects of different attitudes and behavior. Other activities stimulate awareness of personal and social responsibility and, in the case of older students, awareness of social justice. The development of self-esteem and tolerance continues throughout the exercises. Educators are encouraged to utilize their own rich heritage, and develop their own activities, while integrating values into everyday activities and the curriculum.

In the Facilitator's Guide for Parent Values Groups, facilitated sessions are designed to help parents and caregivers develop the understanding and skills needed to encourage and positively develop values in children. The process includes sessions that help parents reflect on their own values and how they "live" those values. In many group sessions, parents play the games their children will play and learn additional methods to foster values-related social and emotional skills at home. Common parenting concerns are addressed, as are particular skills to deal with those concerns. The guide can be used as a precursor to the program's activities or as part of an existing parenting class or program. Parents are asked to think, create, and model the values they would like their children to enjoy. Methods are also presented to show parents how to incorporate values as they nurture their children's development. The process-oriented sessions are designed so parents can

  • assess which values are most important to them,
  • determine which values they want to impart to the children,
  • build awareness about how children learn about values, and
  • develop understanding and skills they can use in teaching children about values.

In the Values Activities for Refugees and Children-Affected-by-War, 50 daily lessons provide tools to begin a healing process of releasing and dealing with grief while developing positive adaptive social and emotional skills with the values of peace, respect, and love. Teachers are encouraged to proceed to the normal values activities after the 50 lessons are completed.

The last book, now in the final stages of development, is the Educator Training Guide, which covers the various activities within educator training workshops. Sessions include values awareness, creating a values-based atmosphere, and skills for creating such an atmosphere. Sample training agendas are offered for one-, two- and three-day educator training programs and a five-day train-the-trainer session.

Materials have been translated into many languages. Values Activities for Refugees and Children-Affected-by-War has been translated into Serbo-Croatian and Karen. Translation of Values Activities Books for Children and Values Activities for Young Adults into Arabic, Cambodian, Chinese, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Karen, Malay, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Thai, Turkish, and Vietnamese is at least partly complete.

Implementation and Initial Evaluation

Substantive piloting of the activities in schools began in the spring of 1997, although a few schools had been experimenting since 1995 with the first few Living Values activities. By June 1998, pilot results from schools indicated increased motivation in students, more cooperative and respectful behavior with both peers and teachers, and more ability to focus on their school tasks.

The Asian Experience

The following pages describe some of the results and outcome of the activities in some Asian and other countries. No formal research program has been undertaken, but all evaluations of the results of using the program materials have been positive. While evaluations have been received from a limited number of sites, Newcastle University in Australia is beginning a more formal evaluation of results at seven schools that recently began implementing the program. Institutions in several other countries are considering independent evaluations.

In Japan, a major factor to getting activities off the ground has been to translate the materials into Japanese. The translation of the Activities Book for 3-7 Year Olds and the Activities Book for Young Adults is now complete, that of the Activities Book for 8-14 Year Olds is more than half finished, while work is underway on the Activities Book for Parents. A steering committee of 13 educators and other individuals has also been formed to help initiate workshops with the materials. The first workshop was scheduled for October 2000 in Tokyo, with pre-workshop training taking place in September.

In Vietnam, the program is just beginning. Values Activities for Children, Ages 8-14 has been translated, and training is scheduled for the Ministry of Education in Hanoi for 25 teachers.

In Korea, program implementation is underway at Seoul International School, Songnam. In 1999 the administration approved adoption of the program to support existing program outcomes in health and social studies in the elementary school, and the introduction of Living Values at the high-school level through a new 9th-grade life-skills class.

In Singapore, several training sessions have been held for teachers.

In Australia, a number of training sessions have been held. One, for example, was held in Newcastle, New South Wales, in September 1999, hosted and organized by Sandra Lloyd, district superintendent for the Department of Training and Education, Lake Macquarie District. Principals, selected teachers, and a parent from eight schools attended the training, as did representatives from a Catholic school, a long-stay day care centre, the local Ethnic Communities Council Multicultural Children's Resource Unit, the office of the Dean of the Faculty of Education at the University of Newcastle, and a volunteer refugee worker. Many of the schools said that the program would complement existing ones and are to adopt it. Some have already reported good results. For example, after piloting the 3-7 Values Activities Peace Unit for just a few weeks with her composite class of grade-two and -three students, Vicki Tweendale of Glendale East Primary School reported: "The children responded well to the exercises, which included visualizations, painting and the 'Star' story." She had the most fun when listening to the children's conversations about peace while they were painting: "The children are so enthusiastic that they want to set up a special values corner and have started talking about making a friendship quilt."

Living Values has also had encouraging results in Malaysia. To quote Shahida Abdul Samad, the program's coordinator in Malaysia and the mother of a young family:

On 1 September 1999, 32 moral education teachers from 32 secondary schools gathered at Malaysia's oldest mining town in Ipoh, Perak State, to attend a one-day Living Values Train-the-Educator program. The success of this program was the result of the commitment, teamwork, and planning of Rahimah Sura, a teacher; Hamdan Mohamed, from with the Perak State Department of Education; and the Institut Antarabangsa IQRA', an institution of higher education. The lead facilitator was Rahimah Sura, who had earlier attended the Living Values Train-The-Trainer we had conducted in April 1999, which was co-sponsored by the Ministry of Education.

Initially sceptical about the program, Mrs. Rahimah decided to test it out in her classroom. She was so impressed with the positive changes it had on her students that she convinced the state education department to conduct a training program for moral-education teachers in the District of Kinta. The training was conducted in the Malaysian national language, and some of the activities were translated into Malay for the training program.

There were 13 criteria by reference to which the training was evaluated. All participants rated the program very highly and unanimously agreed that it had met their expectations in terms of content and relevancy to the issues that teachers and students are facing in today's environment. The challenges that some of the teachers faced when implementing Living Values were the following:

  • They had difficulty expressing their feelings verbally.

  • Values were not consistently role-modeled by parents and other teachers who were not exposed to the program.

  • Emphasis within the schools as a whole was more on the upcoming exams, and, as the training took place in the midst of the examination period, most teachers felt that they were unable to implement Living Values immediately.

After two months, feedback forms were given to all 32 teachers, 28 of whom responded. The 32 teachers in turn had shared the material with other moral education teachers and they increased threefold to 97. Almost 3,000 students experienced some of the activities from the program. The majority of the teachers noticed positive changes in the students and in the classroom atmosphere as a whole. What students once regarded as a dreaded subject, they now looked forward to so that they could share their thoughts, feelings, and ideas with others. Many teachers reported that students were more self-confident, more aware of the effect of their actions on others, more respectful of others' feelings, and, overall, happier and more self-assured. Twenty-five teachers (or 78% of them) responded positively. These were some of their observations:

  • Behavior changes positively.
  • Student-teacher relations improve.
  • Students are more self-confident, focused.
  • They are more interested in the moral-education class.
  • They have respect for peers.
  • The classroom atmosphere is more peaceful. Students are cooperative.
  • Students' ability to concentrate is increased.
  • Students love the activities and look forward to more.
  • They are more creative, have their own ideas, and want to be heard.
  • Teachers feel more confident of their grasp of the subject and how to teach it as they experience its value and better understand it.
  • Students are proactive.
  • They are able to relate to a situation, their behavior, and the value of the subject.
  • They know how to handle difficult situations.

Five teachers (16%) felt that time was too short to tell if students' behavior was changing. The remaining two (6%) felt the class was too big to do the activities, that there was no reinforcement of the values from other teachers and parents, and that they were not effective alone. (Classes were held once a week, with each session lasting from 20 to 40 minutes each. The teacher-to-student ratio, on average, was 1:31).

Living Values has been underway in India in one form or another for a number of years now, and programs held include the following:

  • train the trainers;
  • teachers' training;
  • programs for students;
  • programs for young adults; and
  • programs for parents and guardians.

All the five main books have been translated into Hindi and some are ready for publication.

In Thailand, a group of Karen teachers have been implementing the Children-Affected-by-War program for over a year. In late April and early May 2000, trainers Diane Tillman and Rachel Flower returned to the site of their 1999 training and spent 10 days with a special group of refugees and teachers. Having visited the camp several times during the year to monitor progress, Ms. Flower reported:

They say that landmines are everywhere now. But still Karen people flock into Thailand, using ever-changing routes, and the refugee camps are set to burst. And yet, whilst they lament what has happened to them, they do not let it dampen their spirit and their deep desire to make a difference in the world. At least this is what we had the privilege to observe when we spent 10 days visiting the camp. Our visit was multipurpose:

  • Guide a new group of 24 teachers through an experiential training in the use of Children-Affected-by-War materials.

  • Interview as many as possible of the 37 teachers from last year's group who had been using the Living Values material over the school year.

  • Further train nine of the teachers who had chosen to become trainers themselves.

  • Train a small number of teachers to run the Parent Values Groups.

This was not an easy task when new, stricter conditions on NGO work in camps dictated that we could not stay overnight. Instead, we had to spend the best part of four hours each day in transit to and from the nearest town, much of it through extremely rugged terrain. But of course it was worth it. Not only to meet and train a new group of dedicated teachers, but also to reconnect with old friends, share experiences of the year, and enjoy the feeling that something very special is happening. It was truly heartwarming to hear of the positive changes, both in their students, and also in their own lives, and feel the sense of hope that these teachers are engendering in those around them.

"My students are so happy!" said one. "I feel as if my heart is soft now. I used to have such a hard heart." "Now I enjoy the children," said another. "I used to get angry so quickly before. I didn't feel as if I was a good teacher. Now I love to encourage them." Another teacher talked of how her students were now so adept at using the conflict resolution skills they'd been taught that they never fight now. "They used to anger quickly and fight regularly," she said. "And now they do not fight." Her smile stretched from ear to ear. Some Living Values students tell non-Living Values students when they fight: "You don't have to fight, you can solve your problems. Would you like us to help?" They all spoke of how many of the children were so much more confident and happier. They have been able to let go of some of their anger and grief and move on into a healthier way of being. And they certainly seem to love the Living Values lessons a great deal. One teacher told us that one of his students always used to skip class, but once the Living Values lessons started up this child came every day.

We also heard stories of more peaceful households, where previously a lot of arguing would take place. One man told us about his own children and how, in sharing Living Values activities with them, they became such good examples in their camp section that other parents were constantly asking him what his secret was. This gave rise to an impromptu parents' group. Another told us of how his own children use Living Values to remind him when he is not being a good example himself, and they also model healthy behavior for their siblings who haven't yet been in Living Values classes.

In short, the word is out that Living Values is "cool," and more and more people want some of it for themselves.

The camp leader is so pleased with the results of the program that he organized a meeting with all his section leaders and education coordinators so they could learn more about what Living Values involves. They now want to have a coordinators' training program some time later in the year.

A group of 25 teachers is now ready to train others, and so next year the hope is that they can lead it themselves with minimal (if any) help from us. In this way the training can spread to other camps. The teaching material has been updated and translated into the Karen language, so the teachers are well equipped to share their treasures with others, with the help of the crayons, paper, pens, card, markers, and so on that we'd bought with some private donations.

It was a joy to be with these people and to share the spirit of their uplifting songs and their strong resolve. It is always a humbling experience and a very special one. Special thanks to Diane for her love and tireless dedication, and to Bharati for her compassion and generosity-she initiated a collection in Singapore and brought boxes of goodies into the camp, including soft toys, bags, hats, books, and much-needed medicines. Milk powder was also bought, which is particularly good for the newcomers, many of whom are very weak when they arrive.

Three hundred schools have implemented the program in Mauritius. One teacher, Mrs. Nellapotesawmy, noted, "Pupils are more honest. They share their knowledge with friends in difficulty. Quarrels are less frequent for they are learning to respect and love their friends." Mr. Borthosow added, "The values do help a lot to give satisfaction to one and all. Frankly, the complaints like "Monsieur, he hit me," "He pushed me," "He took my cake," and "He doesn't allow me to play," have diminished a lot."

Activities in Hong Kong are also underway, and eight workshops and training sessions have been offered for a total of over 200 local educators. These have led to some values activities being undertaken in schools and, even this early, the response so far has been encouraging. In early 1999, a draft Chinese translation of the Values Activities for Children Aged 3-7 was presented to the Education Department for review and some 250 copies were subsequently printed. The first draft of Values Activities for Children Aged 8-14 in Chinese was also completed not long thereafter. Discussions are underway with the Beijing Institute of Education with regard to the editing, publishing, and use of both these books.

Living Values teacher-trainer Lai Lai-Fong has used program activities in a secondary school within the Tung Wah Group of schools and quickly found that children even in this non-stop city have a natural affinity for peace and readily warmed to activities that helped them develop and express it.

Following a meeting with teachers, piloting of Living Values began in September 2000 at a local primary school, Hsin Tsi Wan, on a whole-school basis. Four lessons a month are dedicated to the program and, in liaison with the Education Department, progress will be monitored and evaluated. Contact is also being maintained with other schools with regard to piloting.

Meanwhile, activities are also set to start at the two kindergartens of Jimmy's Education Institute, following a training conducted there for 20 teachers. The program is also being implemented at Teens Tonic Child Development Centre, whose principal, Karen Ng, reports that the program has helped children and parents to become more aware of the importance of values.

With so many teachers now introduced to the program, a seminar to consider questions of implementation was held in January 2000 at the Education Department's Teachers' Centre for an invited group of teachers, student guidance officers, and three curriculum experts from the government's Curriculum Development Institute. Led by Derek Sankey, participants were guided into an evaluation of the main practical issues in implementing a locally sensitive values-based educational program. Starting with the premise that the problem with most curriculums is that they leave values out, small group discussions deliberated on whether or not values can find a designated slot within the new curriculum currently being developed for Hong Kong in the context of overcrowded classrooms, the pressure of exams, passive students, and teacher-directed learning. With the program as the focal point for the workshop, the key points that emerged were synthesized by group facilitators. In summary, while some teachers expressed concerns with regard to issues such as classroom seating arrangement, the rigid attitudes of head teachers, school policy, and parents' intolerance to new ideas, it was thought that, with sufficient guidance, the program activities would be applicable to local schools. The materials can be adapted to reflect the local culture and customs. Although some teachers said they would feel comfortable carrying out program activities, others would like more training and support. It was agreed that once teachers have internalized the values themselves, the program can be implemented successfully.

Peter Williams worked with somewhat older students for several months in a middle school in Beijing, China. When he asked his Chinese colleague, Ao Wen Ya, why she thought a peace visualization was successful, she said: "It helped the children to find peace by themselves. It helped the children to feel happy and relaxed. It made them really want to be happy and motivated to build a better world and be kind to each other." She also noted: "Sometimes the children can be naughty in class; they don't concentrate. Now they are more engaged in their subjects because they are interested. They are motivated to learn because they are valued as people! They are now calmer and not as naughty. The quality and standards of work are higher. They are willing to take risks to express themselves well with more confidence." Mr. Williams added: "The lessons really did something. Their attitude is more positive, and they are better organized both individually and as a group." An observer from the Chinese Academy of Sciences commented that the motivation of the children had been greatly enhanced and that this was transferred to other lessons. Although the program is not formally being implemented at the school, there have also been some follow-up sessions. Meetings have also been held with and presentations made to teachers, other educationists, and various universities, including the Beijing Institute of Education, Peking University, the National Centre for Education Development Research, Capital Normal University, and Beijing Normal University.


Recent years have seen an erosion of some of the political and geographical walls behind which human rights have been abused, but in their place we often encounter cultural and ethnic differences that are exploited to justify abuses. Awareness of shared values can help us recognize and respect the universality of human rights. To reaffirm faith in the dignity and worth of the human person, we must first understand why we have such worth and then experience it. Human rights are derived from the worth of the individual and that worth can be seen in the exercise of reason and conscience and the expression by the individual of values such as respect, freedom, and responsibility. We must bring those human values back into our personal, professional, and societal relationships to reaffirm the worth of the individual. When we do so, human rights will be the unwritten laws that will be upheld and followed naturally by everyone, everywhere, as a way of life. It is only when we have such a values-based or even spiritual perspective that we can be free and equal and can truly act toward one another in a spirit of brotherhood as urged by the Declaration.

The practical outcome of using Living Values activities in schools, and an awareness of the changes that can come about, are helping to strengthen appreciation of the benefits, relevance, and necessity of values in the classroom. This in turn is highlighting the crucial role to be played by educators, as education must be values-based if it is to provide the indispensable preparation that is needed for life in a world where, too often, human rights are under attack. The demands that are being imposed on front-line teachers, and their need for training, materials, and support cannot be underestimated. It is hoped that Living Values materials, and a supporting network, can help educationists in meeting the challenges facing them. But policymakers, public authorities, parents, and educators must come together and work together. Only then will it be possible to deliver empowering values-based and rights-based education, without which formal education is not meeting its aim of equipping youth for the journey toward a better tomorrow.

All of us collectively determine the future of humanity. The more we accept the personal challenge and responsibility of bringing these values back into our daily lives, the more everyone's rights will be observed and the more certain and secure the future will be. The choice, and the consequences, are ours.