A Moral Education programme in schools must now become a Number One priority
Getting Back on Track by Roy Paul
Kaieteur News
November 26, 2006

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Although the feeling that we need to do something very urgently to arrest the backsliding of our society towards immorality on a large scale, those who have the power to do something about this depressing situation may be seen as incapable of doing anything to affect a reversal in this aspect of our culture.

The great number of brutal killings, the regular rapes and cases of incest within our communities in general, and the indiscipline, loose behaviour, teenage pregnancy and frequent suicides among our young people bear witness to the crying need for something urgent and comprehensive so that we can build a firm and stable foundation on which to launch the economic and other more material aspects of our development.

I have long advocated the need for a concerted effort by all those who are responsible for the upbringing and welfare of our youths to come together and develop a comprehensive programme to effect a turnaround in the moral fabric of our society on all fronts within our communities, with of course much emphasis being placed on the young people in our schools. One of my recommendations has been the establishment of a national Parent-Teachers Association to incorporate all the various aspirations of our parents for our children and formulate a national moral education curriculum.

It is a fact that there has always been a problem with the moral education of our children, which began with the takeover by the government of all denominational schools. This is compounded by the reality that all our governments since Independence have been socialist-oriented, and each of these has been misguided in the belief that any programme of moral education must have a religious base. This has found support by those among us who have felt that our education must remain secular in nature, and so we have actually been guilty of throwing away the baby with the bath water.

To cater for this, the obvious solution would be to organise all the relevant agencies within our society and get their representatives to come together and formulate a programme which would satisfy all sections and all perspectives. These would include school heads, parents (preferably represented by Parent-Teachers' Associations), older students, local business people, local authorities, church bodies and other interested groups. Some of the questions this body would consider may be: What do we stand for? What kinds of people would comprise the type of community we want? What kinds of people would we like our children to become? How can we go about establishing programmes in our community to cater for the upliftment of moral standards?

We need to realise also that we have to place a special emphasis on the programmes in our schools, which should aim at building the character of our future generation and instilling in them proper values which would help them to appreciate their responsibilities to themselves to make the most out of themselves, to their families to learn to provide for their needs, and to the society at large to become responsible and productive citizens.

Schools must appreciate that this process of character-building must take precedence over academic performance, and the latter would be of no use without the former. In simple terms, children need to make it a habit to know the good, love the good, and do the good, not just once in a while when in the presence of others, but as a matter of conscience. We are all born with different tendencies and temperaments. Some of us might be more melancholy, some might be more cheerful, some more social. But character is definitely something we can build through good habits. It's very easy to fall into bad habits, but it takes a lot of effort to be generous or hard-working all the time. You need to teach children to share, to keep their things in order, to be cheerful, and to deal with others with courtesy, respect and kindness. Otherwise our society will continue to be dominated by people who are self-centred.

In summary, these are my recommendations on the way forward for any moral education programme among our young people:

* A greater place for moral education in public school curricula.

* A cooperative effort among teachers, parents, media, courts, businesses, and civil, racial, ethnic, and religious organisations, for creating a social and cultural setting that supports moral behaviour and education.

* The establishment and publicising of clear expectations for teachers and administrators in their roles as moral educators.

* Increased attention to moral education at the teachers' training college and training programmes at other educational institutions.

* The inclusion of critical thinking and decision making skills in moral education.

* Regular assessments of the moral climate of schools and conduct of students, with the results of those assessments being made public.