From bullying, sexting, morality, to self-harm, ethics education presents an array of realities that the young generation encounter throughout their lives. Since 2014, ethics educators have been quietly working on our children’s critical and creative skills, aiming to foster an inquisitive mindset in tomorrow’s leaders.
By having a safe place to debate and learn about today’s societal issues, students have an opportunity to be less naïve about the truths of life. Furthermore, ethics also provides a bedrock for the notion of the self. For instance, mindfulness, self-awareness, suicide, identity, and sexual expression are all part of the intrapersonal package found in the subject’s syllabus.
In 2014, local schools faced a struggle with 1,411 students who opted out of religious knowledge, leaving the school with a set of pupils who were not attending any class during the religion lesson. Numbers rose yearly, and due to this, more students were being left idle throughout the week.
In 2014, ethics education was introduced at the primary and secondary level to solve this problem, acting as a substitute to religious knowledge in private-independent and state schools. Over the years, the demand for ethics educators increased exponentially, requiring teachers who specialised in other areas to fill in the supply gaps to facilitate all the students choosing ethics.
Despite the dissimilarities between the two subjects, some individuals tend to perceive ethics as being religion’s opposition, even though ethics doesn’t focus on any religious doctrine. Being both a Roman Catholic and a prospective ethics educator, I can confirm that the two subjects don’t hinder one other; on the contrary, they can supplement each other on the idea of how to live with virtue and principle.
Don’t mistake ethics with PSCD or earlier civics either; this is a subject that challenges today’s status quo with its practical and contemporary philosophy. Ethics has turned out to be one of the most indispensable subjects for our students’ formation.
The following are some of the ethics concepts taught across the years:
As from Year 1, youngsters start to examine themselves with ideas like how can I show empathy for children who are homeless? Why is it important for people to be different? Or what are my feelings like when I am alone?
As the demand for ethics education increases, so must the quality of the syllabus- Luke Fenech
In Year 2, students perceive the value of friendship, the classroom as a moral community, how to treat one another, and the consequences of bullying.
Year 3 students are taught about protecting the environment, global citizenship, respecting property, and how to be a good neighbour.
Year 4 learners are introduced to aspects of justice, respect and trust, courage and moderation.
As for the Year 5s, diversity, values, tolerance, and free will are presented.
Year 6s delve into faith and reason, moral values, beliefs of different religions, and the notion of conscience.
The middle school (Form 1 and 2) get a sound understanding of the following: duties and obligations, animal rights, freedom, consequences and motives, and morality as law
Lastly, secondary students (Form 3 to 5) can opt for the Ethics SEC examination. The syllabus comprises virtues, narcissism and self-obsession, hate speech, cyberbullying, the intimate-self, ethical dilemmas, and responsible life choices.
The syllabus pushes learners to be more open-minded about the world when they leave the ethics classroom. Also, the critical and creative skills taught in this subject will be conducive to articulating better arguments and conversations. As the demand for ethics education increases, so must the quality of the syllabus, which ought to remain consistent with contemporary issues and moral standards.
The responsibility educators endure when teaching the mentioned topics is no easy task. When delivering an ethics lesson, teachers are not only preparing students for an exam but predominately for the development of their students’ mentality – who are tomorrow’s front runners.
Ultimately, this breakthrough in educating students with a solid foundation of different life experiences is the stepping stone towards a much-needed critical society; and that’s where ethics education fits its purpose.
Luke Fenech is a Master in Teaching and Learning student in Ethics Education.