C.S. Lewis once said, “Knowledge without values seems rather to make a man a more clever devil.” While the primary goal of educational institutes is to ensure that all students are equipped with the knowledge required by the workforce or to move on to higher education, I believe that schools must also teach values. This complements their learning of contextual knowledge and gives students a more holistic education that covers emotional development as well. I strongly believe, therefore, that inculcating values in students at school should be taught alongside knowledge in schools.
To begin with, without a proper ‘moral compass’ or guide to conducting oneself, knowledge is rendered meaningless in making decisions. As seen from the quote above, without any values, we are simply making children more susceptible to forging values that go against what is considered respectable in society. With the increasing plethora of knowledge so easily available to students, this gives everyone equal opportunities to educate themselves, hence creating a level playing field for the absorption of knowledge. However, this does not guarantee that the knowledge will be used wisely, as students with vast amounts of knowledge may not hold sound moral beliefs, and may also negatively influence others around them. Given that students across the globe spend a sizable portion of their day in school, schools should be responsible for teaching their students values as well. A classroom will comprise students of various backgrounds and beliefs and the onus is on the schools to ensure that their students are able to handle these differences in an appropriate manner. Many schools conduct their own moral education lessons that aim to teach students values and guide them towards developing proper moral reasoning. One example is the compulsory ‘Values In Action’ programme implemented during curriculum hours in all schools across Singapore. It usually requires students to take on a project with the aim of helping a target group in society. Concurrently, it teaches them to be compassionate and empathise with the difficulties faced by others. Studies have shown that teachers can influence a child and inspire him to be a better person in general. Hence, it is important for schools to do their best to ensure that each child ends up with a sound set of values, so that they are equipped with sound beliefs to help them navigate through life.
Knowledge without values is also meaningless for students in the long run. The demographics of the workforce is rapidly changing and although the qualifications for most jobs have increased, employers are now looking for workers with better values and higher emotional quotients. This can be seen in the increasing number of companies around the world that are incorporating personality tests and background checks on potential employees. This is to better profile the candidate and understand his or her character to determine their suitability for the job. Moreover, the background checks are conducted not only to find out about one’s academic achievements, but also to check one’s social media accounts to better assess one’s character through his or her posts and online behaviour. This shows how values are equally as important as academic credentials in helping one secure a job, as well as to thrive in the workforce. Since the primary responsibility of schools is to prepare students for the workforce, they should also prepare students to deal with situations that will test their resilience and character in the future.
In addition, the goals of the education system globally are to meet the emotional needs and aid in the emotional development of the child as stated in Article 29 of the United Nations Charter on the Rights to an Education. This shows that governments and world leaders recognize the vital role that schools play in nurturing a child. Several countries have already put in place measures to help a child develop to his fullest potential by ensuring that the emotional needs are met by conducting programmes to teach children values and develop their character. In 2012, the Singapore government introduced the Edusave Character Award, and every year since it was introduced, rewards have been given to the students who have demonstrated excellent character and are role models for their peers. This further helps to emphasize the point that schools are not merely places to accrue knowledge, but are also places for holistic development. Some students view their teachers as ‘second parents’ and do approach them for advice with difficulties they face beyond their academic work. Teachers, in this sense, are responsible for guiding their students in the right direction and urging them to make the best possible decisions in the future.
However, some point out that the current education system is already over-laden with too many activities and programmes, and schools should not be made to bear the sole responsibility of imparting values to a child as well. Many would argue that it is the role of the parents to do so. I believe that parents do hold a great influence over their child and should work together with the schools in order to impart good values to their children. Teachers today already have much on their plate, to cope with not just teaching, but other administrative duties as well. Given they have so many students in one class to manage, it would also not be reasonable or realistic to expect a teacher to be responsible for so many students at a time. Moreover, parents are the main caregivers in a child’s life, and studies have shown that parents prove to have the most significant influence on shaping a child’s development and character in their growing years. Hence, parents should also be taking an active role in ensuring that students have sound morals.
In conclusion, schools should teach values as well as knowledge in order to complement what children learn at home and prepare them for future challenges. Certain scenarios that children encounter in school are similar to what one would expect in the workforce, albeit on a smaller scale and with fewer consequences. Teaching students how to cope with these challenges will go a long way in preparing them for the future and helping them reach their full potential.