4. Challenges and strategies in embedding values

This chapter presents challenges and related strategies for teaching values and attitudes associated with three different levels of action and implementation. First, an analysis of challenges encountered, and strategies undertaken by countries/jurisdictions related to curriculum redesign; secondly, challenges and strategies related to the school and its environment; and thirdly, challenges and strategies related to alignment with other policies.

Despite the prevalence of values and attitudes in educational priorities and curricular design, the questions of which values, whose values and how values should be embedded in curriculum – and therefore taught in schools – have been critical to consider in the design process. Choices may reflect political or ideological influences, may be intensely personal, or may not necessarily be broadly shared by stakeholders.

While the specific values deemed important for inclusion differ across countries, some common themes can be identified in the challenges experienced in redesigning curriculum to embed these values, and the strategies employed to overcome these challenges.

Countries reported that building consensus is key in bridging differences and minimising marginal influences. In so doing, countries reported challenges on four fronts: i) reaching agreement on whether values should be addressed as part of curriculum redesign; ii) building consensus on which values and attitudes should to be included in the curriculum; iii) even when agreement to include them is reached, the dissonance between values instilled through media and social media and those intended to be fostered through curriculum; and iv) harmonising values intended for inclusion in curriculum and changing values aligned with societal and economic changes.

The multiple influences of political parties, key educational stakeholders, social partners, parents, the media and social media, can be in opposition in shaping young people’s attitudes and values. At the societal level, the rapidity of social and economic change requires renewal/regular reassessment of the values in the curriculum to remain current and avoid obsolescence. This desire for curriculum to be relevant and future-focused may contradict, for example, parental expectations about what students should learn at school. At the school level, the values espoused by the school and teachers’ own values and views may have an impact on students’ exposure to and acceptance of values.

Alignment is key to the successful strategies that countries/jurisdictions articulate have overcome the challenges of including values and attitudes in the curriculum. Alignment of local, national and international priorities with values and attitudes was reported by a significant number of countries. Similarly, alignment with key stakeholder views, and building consensus were other effective approaches used. Embedding values into subject-specific content and creating specific subjects to teach values are also common strategies. Countries can consider a combination of these approaches to address resistance to or differences of views in establishing values and attitudes in curriculum redesign and/or teaching and learning programmes. Finally, capitalising students’ connection to communities and their social context is a way of making the theoretical teaching of values and attitudes a practical application to the real world.

In some countries, there can be resistance to the notion that values should be addressed as part of curriculum design. There is scepticism as to whether schools are adequately equipped to foster values learning, or a belief that schools and school curriculum are not the appropriate setting for values formation (this being the responsibility of parents, religious communities, etc.).

Even when there is agreement that values and attitudes should be embedded in curriculum, the question arises as to which or whose values should be included or excluded. A number of countries/jurisdictions, including Australia, British Columbia (Canada), Brazil and Viet Nam reported challenges associated with building consensus among diverse stakeholders on the values and attitudes that the curriculum would address and on how these should be addressed.

  • In Australia, when a national curriculum was in development, there was ongoing debate about which values and attitudes should be part of young people’s education and what a national curriculum should require. In addition, there was discussion of the relationship among values, attitudes and disciplinary learning in curriculum design.

  • British Columbia (Canada) indicated that the difficulty in defining certain values in a universally agreed way contributed to the challenge of assessing the values to be embedded in curriculum. For example, “respect for the environment” was a value on which opinions and definitions varied significantly, particularly in different regions of British Columbia, where the economy may depend, for example, upon natural resources.

  • Ireland noted the influence patron bodies have on values a school might espouse. Primary schools in particular, which are largely faith-based, have a constitutional right to uphold the values representative of their ethos.

  • Political groups in Brazil have influence in parliamentary decisions, and these groups have regularly lobbied to have legislation passed to include particular values and practices that are affiliated with religious, political and personal views.

  • Viet Nam noted factors that arise in their context about not only what values should be embedded in curriculum but how they can be embedded, including the level of detail and the methodology to embed them in the curriculum.

Education systems often compete with other sources of influence on young people. For example, some countries/jurisdictions reported an increasing influence of social media on young people’s values and views of the world. New and emerging media platforms sometimes promote values that contradict those in the curriculum. Young people may not always be well-equipped to look critically at the values promoted by media.

  • Chile noted the pervasive influence of media and social media on young people. Models of behaviour and attitudes that are out of touch with local, social expectations have led to what was reported as “anti-values” (negative attitudes of a person or group of people to social rules).

  • In an age in which children and young people are bombarded with information from a variety of sources, Ireland reflected the need for children to develop robust judgement in their use of the media, and to learn about and become aware of influencing strategies used in advertising. Ireland, therefore, prioritises learning to understand and practice equality, justice and fairness in school situations, so that students will be enabled to challenge prejudice and discrimination as they experience it in their own lives, for the present and into the future.

As societal values evolve with changing social, economic and environment priorities, curriculum designers need to reflect these changes in updated curriculum. Failure to do so may contribute to creating a disconnect between what students learn in school and the society in which they live and interact with others.

  • In Chile, societal trends, such as the diminishing role of the family in forming values (e.g. due to parents working more) means that the education system has increasing responsibility for shaping the attitudes and values of children and young people.

  • Changing global and socio-economic contexts have influenced India’s national education policy to affirm values of global citizenship and alignment to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. This policy recognises that personal and societal values must be an integral part of education. The policy also includes an emphasis on moral and ethical reasoning that should be integrated in school, as well as in higher, education.

  • Not all countries specify values as a separate yet interrelated dimension of curriculum and even those that do, often have other instruments that guide the development of values and attitudes as outcomes of education. Documents such as constitutions, laws, regulations and curriculum guidelines (Table 4.2) complement explicit curriculum content.

International instruments such as those developed by the United Nations (UN) and the OECD are designed to provide advice and guidance to countries on broad economic and social policy. The values articulated in these documents influence the educational goals and curriculum design in some countries/jurisdictions. The UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the UN Charter and the UN Millennium Declaration articulate such values as equality, freedom, justice, dignity, solidarity, tolerance, peace, security, and sustainable development, and the OECD Global Competency Framework includes valuing human dignity and valuing cultural diversity as guiding principles for attitudes such as openness towards people from other cultures, respect for cultural otherness, global-mindedness, and responsibility.

Aligning values in the curriculum with those already enshrined in national or international legal instruments can negate the need to “start from scratch” when deciding on which values to include in curriculum. Such an approach may also add legitimacy or authority to the selection of values for inclusion, which may in turn help to build consensus among stakeholders.

Several countries/jurisdictions described aligning values with national policy documents and legal instruments, those not only related to education but also to broader social policies. 60% of countries/jurisdictions highlight documents that reflect national contexts, such as education acts, declarations and targeted strategies, as guiding sources of values education.

The national constitution is cited as a source of values to be included in educational outcomes in 21% of countries (such as Estonia, Finland, Japan, Korea, Mexico, the Netherlands, Poland and Brazil). These documents include values such as humanity, patriotism, respect and equality. Educational legislation and guidelines, such as those to advance inclusivity and respect for diversity in schools, are quoted by 10% of countries/jurisdictions (such as Chile, Hungary, Ontario (Canada) and South Africa).

  • The Australian curriculum incorporates three dimensions (learning areas, general capabilities and cross-curriculum priorities) addressing values and attitudes identified in the 2008 Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians and reaffirmed in the Alice Springs (Mparntwe) Education Declaration of 2019.

  • Chile incorporates values and attitudes in legislated instruments (Law 20.609/2012 for measures against discrimination, Law 20.845/2015 for school inclusion and Law 20418/2010 for the right to receive education, information and guidance in terms of fertility regulation). Building on existing frameworks, starting with the 1994 National Commission for the modernisation of education and then those of 2005, 2009 and 2014, Chile has opted to explicitly incorporate values into the curriculum as transversal content.

  • In Norway, schools develop their curriculum content based on the values in the Education Act, which sets out the overall objectives of education. Examples of values in the Norwegian curriculum are human dignity; identity and cultural diversity; critical thinking and ethical awareness; the joy of creating, engagement and the urge to explore; respect for nature and environmental awareness; democracy and participation.

  • Québec (Canada) reported that the Policy on Educational Success embodies three major values: universality, accessibility and equity. This policy underpins education measures in Québec and must, therefore, be reflected in the strategies, action plans and activities implemented in schools, including the curriculum.

  • Across India, more than 400 languages are spoken and 7 religions practised. Therefore, it is difficult to build consensus on national values and identity. However, the Constitution of India prescribes values that assume significance for all citizens, and these are articulated in curricular frameworks and textbooks. All policy documents and education acts must also be based on certain values that are reaffirmed when reforms occur.

Countries/jurisdictions use a range of strategies to involve stakeholders in decision making and establish consultation processes or expert reviews to reach consensus on which values and attitudes to include in curriculum.

Rather than a central authority deciding and mandating which values are to be included in curriculum, countries such as Australia, Ireland, Norway and India have adopted a consensus-building approach. Stakeholder consultation has been undertaken as part of the decision-making process in a number of countries/jurisdictions, while in others, securing political agreement has been an important early step.

  • In Australia, initial work on the Australian Curriculum was guided by the Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians (December 2008), which emphasised the importance of learning areas, general capabilities and cross-curriculum priorities as the basis for a curriculum designed to support 21st century learning.

  • Ireland has a centralised education system administered by the Department of Education and Skills, although there is significant localisation in terms of school ownership, trusteeship and management. The 1998 Education Act provides for partnership model to curriculum development. This process “front-ends” curriculum negotiations through representative structures involving the key partners in education. This process is supplemented by engagement and generation of research, extensive consultation and the building of networks of schools/teachers/experts in the field. This type of consultation led to a vision for curriculum that empowers learners to be confident in their national, cultural and individual identity, to be aware of their capability to achieve more and to take every opportunity that arises to be the best that they can be, as outlined in the policy document, CUMASÚ, Empowering through Learning, Action Plan for Education 2019’. Other consultations include, Education about Religions and Beliefs and Ethics (primary); The Review of Relationships and Sexuality Education (primary and post-primary) Consultation on Religious Education and Social, Personal and Health Education (post-primary).

  • In Norway, consensus building involved having political agreement by parliament on the new overarching frame of the National Curriculum, prior to renewal of the curriculum. During the renewal process, teachers and other professionals provided input and contributed at key points. All those with an interest in school curriculum content also had the opportunity to share their opinions and suggestions at different phases of the process, and in several hearings. This open and inclusive process was important in building consensus among teachers, in schools and other key stakeholders at the local and national levels.

  • India advocates forming working committees of experts to support embedding a particular value or set of values in the curriculum. India has also found it useful to implement a bottom-up approach to consultation, so that voices of citizens from across socio-economic and educational backgrounds are taken into consideration when drafting new education policy. For the New Education Policy (2019), India put in place processes and systems to invite recommendations and feedback from individuals, institutions, organisations and groups of people across the phases of policy design. This process included people representing different educational ideologies and ideas, different cultural and social backgrounds, and different regions – a range reflecting the diversity of the nation.

  • Viet Nam found it helpful to identify the principles that underlie the qualities it includes in the national curriculum by holding scientific seminars and collecting opinions from different stakeholder groups.

As countries/jurisdictions developed strategies for inclusion of values and attitudes in the curriculum, they also needed to consider where values and attitudes are articulated, structurally, in curriculum design. The place of values and attitudes in curriculum design varies. Some curricula include values as part of student profiles, learning goals, learning outcomes or a set of core competencies as a domain or element of the overall curriculum framework.

These approaches to values and attitudes are the most commonly articulated by countries/jurisdictions in this study. For instance, in Turkey, cross-curricular values are explicitly highlighted in a table at the beginning of the curriculum, indicating that schools and teachers need to consider values as an integral part of their curriculum. In Sweden, values are expected to be embedded in teaching in all subjects, without appearing explicitly in subject-specific goals. In British Columbia (Canada), values are embedded in the core competencies, these competencies being one of three curriculum design elements; and in Ireland, values are headlined in the 24 Statements of Learning. In Denmark, subject aims list values to a limited extent, but values are an integral part of the concept of competence, in the Common Objectives of the curriculum. Chile also articulates values and attitudes in the Transverse Learning Goals (TLG).

Some countries’ curricula specify that values are to be part of teaching and learning planning across school subjects (Table 4.3). The Curriculum Content Mapping (CCM) project (see Chapter 2) identified how, in the curriculum of participating countries/jurisdictions, a particular set of values and attitudes are explicated in subject-specific content.

  • In Australia, opportunities to develop values, as reflected in capabilities and priorities, are indicated in the content of each subject. Australia’s involvement in the CCM project demonstrated too, that values and attitudes beyond those specified in the capabilities and priorities are explicit in subject-specific curriculum. Reflection, for instance, was embedded across all subjects of the curriculum.

  • In Ireland, through curriculum specifications, learning outcomes describe the knowledge, skills, concepts, dispositions and values that children should know/be able to demonstrate at the end of a period of learning.

  • In the Netherlands, core subject objectives for lower secondary education reflect values, such as an objective in physical education to “acknowledge the needs of others, show respect and care for each other”.

  • Hong Kong (China), has been encouraging schools to adopt an approach of whole-school participation for values education implementation. Some schools may choose to develop their school-based curriculum related to values education/whole-person development.

  • In South Africa, subject textbooks follow a value-informed accreditation system. Students are provided with opportunities to appreciate and understand the attitude and values associated with a particular subject.

In more than one-third of countries/jurisdictions, specific subjects address moral, ethical and/or citizenship education. This approach to a particular subject providing values education allows a strong focus on the designated values. Ireland, for instance, includes a Social, Personal and Health Education. Japan includes a Moral Education subject (with its own purpose-designed textbook) and supports this teaching by ensuring instruction time for it and by developing teaching training on moral education. Singapore also includes a subject on Character and Citizenship Education and provides guiding principles with examples of content, pedagogies and assessments for the subject. Another example is Mexico, which includes Civic Education and Ethics, where students have the opportunity to monitor the appropriation of values; and through the processes of evaluation between peers and self-evaluation, teachers promote in students the capacity to discuss and analyse the work done in class.

Most countries/jurisdictions indicated that a combination of approaches was used to ensure that values and attitudes underpin curriculum and are implemented in teaching and learning programmes (Table 4.3).

  • In Australia, values and attitudes are articulated in national education declarations (2008 and 2019) that underpin the curriculum. The values implicit in the goals of this declaration are articulated in capabilities and priorities that form two dimensions of a three-dimensional curriculum. The learning areas, the third dimension, also reflect the declaration’s values. The subject Civics and Citizenship (Years 3-10) contains key concepts identified in the declaration, such as government and democracy, laws and citizenship, diversity and identity. History and Geography (Foundation - Year 10) include content related to human rights, dignity, environmental concerns, liveability of places; Technologies (Foundation-10) includes content related to ethical understandings and sustainable futures; Health and Physical Education (Foundation-10) includes developing respect, empathy and valuing diversity; and English (Foundation-10) includes the interpretation of texts being influenced by value systems.

  • Estonia has core values stated in the national curriculum, as well as in general competencies, such as cultural and citizenship competence, and civics and citizenship education as stand-alone subjects.

  • Singapore’s Ministry of Education believes that values and attitudes among other competencies are not learned in a vacuum, but in specific contexts. The 21st-Century Competencies Framework emphasises the values of care, integrity, respect, resilience, responsibility and harmony. The curriculum also includes Character and Citizenship Education, and provides guiding principles with examples of content, pedagogies and assessments for the subject; teachers are also encouraged to address values across multiple subject areas, such as social studies, history and geography as well as in mathematics and science (Ministry of Education Singapore, n.d.[1]). Therefore, the curriculum highlights that the core values at the centre of their learning framework are expected to be embedded into every subject.

Table 4.3 indicates that most countries/jurisdictions combine different approaches to embedding values into curriculum with a combination of specifying these within an element of the curriculum design, and/or in subject-specific content, and/or in purpose-developed subjects.

Taking into account the diverse cultural, ethical, linguistic and social environments in which schools exist, it is important for curriculum designers to make connections between the values taught in school and their application in the real world. Ultimately, this can help students go beyond their classrooms to put values into practice in their own communities and in the wider global community.

A case in point is the use of service-learning activities, i.e. activities that encourage students to engage with others outside the immediate school environment. Community service programmes encourage students to develop social skills and provide opportunities to improve their self-confidence, self-efficacy and resilience, as well as their awareness and appreciation of diversity in society (Jenney, 2012[2]). Students gain greater ability to avoid risky behaviours (Berkowitz, Bier and McCauley, 2017[3]) and this may help close the achievement gap in lower-performing schools (Scales et al., 2006[4]).

Such forms of experiential learning can help students discover the intrinsic value of community service and develop service-oriented habits and behaviours.

  • In Japan, schools routinely connect students with individual members of surrounding communities for learning purposes.

  • Other Learning Experiences (OLE) is an integral part of the senior secondary curriculum in Hong Kong, alongside the core and elective subjects, to nurture students’ values and attitudes. For example, through community service programmes, senior secondary students can better understand specific needs of different people in a broader social context, and clarify and reflect on the values embedded in personal and social issues.

Many countries/jurisdictions are exploring ways to give schools flexibility in curriculum design, including those aspects that incorporate attitudes and values. Giving schools greater flexibility is particularly important in ensuring that values from the local community are reflected in local curriculum. The learning content is then relevant to students’ lives outside school (see Chapter 3). Such flexibility also allows teachers to include their own interpretations of values prioritised in teaching and learning programmes.

However, one of the challenges of giving schools flexibility to embed values relevant to their local contexts is that this invites variation in levels of quality and engagement among schools in designing and managing curriculum content on values. Another challenge found is that, in some cases, teachers’ own values may conflict with those specified in the curriculum.

To avoid such variation, countries/jurisdictions reported strategies such as specifying the values that they would like students to develop in high-level overarching curriculum aims and purpose statements that can then frame design and planning. A similar approach included providing guidelines to schools on the type of values to embed and how – either as part of education legislation or in the national curriculum. Countries/jurisdictions also reported embedding values into subject-specific content, and providing incentives and encouraging schools to design values education content in their own programmes, for example, by giving awards for good design and implementation practices across schools.

While countries/jurisdictions provide schools with some autonomy in designing and managing curriculum content on values, such flexibility may lead to varying implementation in schools. Some countries/jurisdictions encourage this variability in order to reflect local contexts and the school communities’ values. Some countries, including Ireland, New Zealand and Poland, reported schools not incorporating values as much as anticipated. This may have been due to lack of awareness or understanding of what values education is.

  • A particular challenge in Ireland is the tension between what the state might deem as appropriate values and what the patron bodies of schools might deem appropriate. Since the early 2000s, Ireland has moved towards an outcomes-based approach to curriculum development and specifications of design – learning is defined in terms of what students should be able to know and do at the end of a period of learning. Attitudes and values are embedded into the design specifications. To support effective implementation, a level of guidance is required for schools to ensure that the design specifications are realised for the learner.

  • New Zealand faces several barriers to values implementation in schools. For example, findings from the New Zealand 2012 Teaching and Learning Research Initiative demonstrated that values acquisition in schools was affected by social challenges and a misalignment between the values held by schools and those held by the communities that they serve (Notman, 2012[5]). The project also demonstrated the need to establish a common understanding of values (for both teachers and learners) and a discourse to interpret them. To a certain extent, New Zealand encourages variability in the values determined for local implementation and the way they are implemented in each school, as the values should reflect the unique nature of each school and its community. The refresh of the National Curriculum (New Zealand Curriculum and Te Marautanga o Aotearoa) will make clearer the learning that cannot be left to chance.

  • Poland notes that, while national school education policies are developed centrally, management and administration are decentralised. Schools in Poland have autonomy in creating and applying all documentation relevant to the teaching of values and attitudes. This approach means that there are discrepancies among schools in the scope and quality of teaching programmes incorporating values, and therefore in student outcomes related to developing attributes and competencies associated with values education. Independent management of schools, which is a consequence of school autonomy, presents challenges to processes and planning of systemic solutions.

Teachers’ personal values and views can contradict the values promoted in curriculum. This may lead to the intended curriculum values being omitted or misinterpreted, intentionally or unintentionally, or a different set of values promoted. For instance, in India, while gender equality is a constitutional right reinforced in the curriculum, it was reported that some teachers may still discriminate against girls in sciences.

  • In India, one reason why values, such as gender equity for example, need to be affirmed and made explicit in the curriculum is to counteract some alternative or opposing views within the system. India noted that some teachers hold views that do not align with the values in the curriculum. For example, a teacher who believes that boys are more able than girls in the disciplines of mathematics and engineering may not be able to model and teach the value of equity, enshrined in the Constitution, the curriculum framework and educational and other policies. 

Some countries/jurisdictions provide schools with flexibility as to what and how to embed values in curriculum, to reflect their local context. Such a strategy helps to ensure the relevance of the values to the students’ lives. Countries/jurisdictions such as New Zealand and Ireland provide some general guidelines to schools on the type of values to embed and how, either as part of the education legislation or in the national curriculum.

  • Ireland’s Education Act of 1998 and national curriculum make it clear that diversity and respect are valued. How these values are articulated and implemented in school curricula is left to schools, so that they can best reflect their context and meet their own needs.

  • In New Zealand’s national curriculum, there are certain values for which schools develop curricula. Local and school curricula can embed values that reflect the diversity relevant to local communities. The relatively small number of values that New Zealand defines in the English-medium national curriculum is not definitive, and individual schools have the autonomy to decide to add others and outline expectations. Communities and their schools can jointly discuss how values are expressed in teaching and learning programmes.

  • Hong Kong (China) has recently issued a curriculum framework on values education.

In some countries/jurisdictions, values are integrated into subject-specific content, in either targeted, specific subjects or across all subjects (such as in Norway and Singapore). This can help guide subject-teachers to better understand how they can foster a set of attitudes and values in their own classrooms. This approach aims to address the uneven level of teacher understandings, or even remove teacher biases. As subject content is rarely “values-neutral” (see Chapter 1), such an approach makes explicit those values that may be implicit in content, thereby addressing varying levels of curriculum implementation across different schools and classrooms, as well as capitalising on opportunities to link content and values in a relevant and authentic way.

  • In Norway, the reasons for and the purpose of learning are clarified and strengthened in the Curriculum Renewal, LK20, of the “Knowledge Promotion” reform that took effect in 2006. There is now a section in the curriculum for each subject on the relevance for learners’ personal development and future participation in society and working life, as well as a section that defines the values and attitudes for that subject. The definition of competence in the new curriculum refers to reflection and critical thinking as part of developing attitudes and ethical judgement. Competence is defined as: “the ability to acquire and apply knowledge and skills to master challenges and solve tasks in familiar and unfamiliar contexts and situations”, and it includes “understanding and the ability to reflect and think critically.” In the curriculum for each subject, a section explains the relevance of the mapped values and attitudes, as well as the overall purpose of training in the subject for learners’ personal development and future participation in society and working life.

  • Singapore also embeds values across all subjects and provides evidence of how this is articulated in individual subjects, for example in mathematics. The syllabus highlights how values and attitudes can be integrated into mathematics by requiring teaching and learning activities to draw examples from prevailing and current events (Ministry of Education Singapore, 2000[6]). For example, a teacher may ask students to calculate body mass index (BMI), which is a task included in the personal environment theme detailed in the national curriculum. The mathematics syllabus suggests that BMI values be collated into a pictorial representation, and the class discuss impacts of obesity and potential ways of addressing the issue. This adds a values component about health and well-being to the study of mathematics (Wong, 2005[7])

In order to minimise uneven implementation of curriculum relating to values and attitudes, Hong Kong (China) reported that it has formalised pathways to identify, reward and disseminate good teaching and learning practices. Since the 2016/17 school year, the Education Bureau of the Hong Kong Government has endowed an Outstanding Teaching Award for Moral Education, which encourages schools to plan and implement moral education through effective leadership, teaching and learning. This promotes positive outcomes in moral education in schools and nurtures positive values and attitudes among students. Awardees share their successful experiences in seminars for principals and teachers, and facilitate professional exchange among schools.

The success of the extent to which values are embedded in curriculum depends on alignment with the pedagogical approaches and learning materials used to implement the curriculum. This alignment needs to extend to the assessment policies and practices used to measure the development of values in the curriculum. Countries/jurisdictions report a range of challenges that arise when values identified in curriculum are not aligned with other policies, practices and instruments. Some countries/jurisdictions experience challenges relating to misalignment with pedagogies, textbooks and learning materials. Challenges also arise when there is misalignment with assessment policies and practices, as values and attitudes are harder to assess than disciplinary content and teachers require specific support and training.

Misalignment between values, curriculum implementation and other policies, practices and instruments presents challenges to successful values education, and some countries/jurisdictions have taken specific actions to improve alignment. Approaches include teacher training on values education within their professional development; reviewing textbook content to reinforce alignment with the values promoted in the curriculum; developing local initiatives to train and support teachers on approaches to teaching values; taking a careful and considered approaches to defining the purpose, scope and instruments for assessing values; and designing “strategic packages” or a suite of measures to support the implementation of values education and therefore the development of values in young people.

Design and implementation of curriculum are affected by many contextual factors at different levels: at the micro- (teacher), meso- (school), exo-system (mass media and community programmes), macro- (governmental/societal), and chrono-system (time and change over time) (Bronfenbrenner and Morris, 1998[8]; McLaughlin, 1990[9]; Spillane, Reiser and Reimer, 2002[10]; Tichnor-Wagner et al., 2018[11]). Students and teachers are part of a complex ecosystem which includes the school, family and community, as well as cultural beliefs that shape expectations around skills, competencies and values, for example, that should be included in a curriculum. The considerations then of curriculum redesign can be influenced at all of these levels and are not independent of them. Curriculum redesign and implementation are complex processes that involve the intersection of multiple policy dimensions (i.e. goals, tools, documents, programmes and resources associated with the redesigned curriculum), people (i.e. students, parents, teachers, community members, school leaders, administrators and all those who play a role in designing and implementing curriculum), and diversity of place (i.e. the varied locations in which the curriculum is taught) (Honig, 2006[12]).1

Countries/jurisdictions can draw on the steering power of the curriculum to embed values and align the curriculum with other policies and instruments that support the holistic development of values in children. A policy framework in which values education may be addressed includes pedagogy, assessment and teacher education.

The extent to which values promoted in the curriculum are successfully fostered in student learning relates to the appropriateness of the pedagogical approaches adopted and to the learning materials that are utilised by teachers. Several countries/jurisdictions, including Japan, Ireland and India, have experienced challenges related to misaligned teaching methods and textbook content, or have identified such misalignment as a risk in their contexts.

  • In Ireland, there is a high degree of agency and independence in terms of schools’ implementation of curriculum which can create tensions between national policy and its intent and how it is experienced in schools. There is no central control of textbooks and resources used by teachers, so there is a risk of misalignment between teaching and learning materials and curriculum intent in relation to values. The misalignment may be exacerbated where the school ethos and those values articulated in national policy differ in their interpretation. By way of example, schools’ faith-based patron bodies have significant authority over school ethos. Particular beliefs espoused by these patron bodies can influence how aspects of the curriculum involving relationships and sexuality education, and the values and attitudes embedded in these curricula, are taught.

  • Prior to 2015, moral education in Japan faced challenges related to a gap between the values and attitudes promoted in the curriculum and teaching practices in classrooms. Moral education aims to foster students thinking about how they live their own lives, and to make proactive decisions about living well with others. However, classes in moral education tended to be based on stories the feelings represented of main characters and required students to talk and write about these objectively. Documentation about effective methodology to support rich teaching and learning was not sufficiently shared with teachers. As a consequence, Japan enhanced moral education in the partial revision of the National Curriculum Standards in 2015. Moral education now provides students with more opportunities to consider and discuss relevant issues to their personal lives, independently in class.

  • In India, it was noted that local political ideology may interfere with the values promoted in textbooks (e.g. gender equality, in terms of representation of girls in textbooks). To address this, the National Council for Educational Research and Training, together with state and sometimes district offices, developed contextualised curricula to address these value-specific challenges. For example, if social justice was highlighted as a significant value that needs to be embedded in teaching and learning programmes in particular states or districts, the state academic bodies together with district offices would address this value in their textbooks, as well as in curricula and teacher education programmes.

Values can be difficult to measure, and challenges relating to the assessment of values have been noted in several countries/jurisdictions, including in Portugal. Defining a construct precisely is an important precursor to measuring it, and problems of definition in relation to some values present challenges to their assessment (see example from British Columbia (Canada)).

Misalignment can also occur when assessment policies and practices, designed to assess disciplinary knowledge and understanding, are used to measure values. In some countries/jurisdictions (for example, Portugal), teachers may be unfamiliar with the most appropriate methods and instruments to use to assess students’ progress and development in relation to values (see Chapter 1).

  • British Columbia (Canada) notes the difficulties associated with assessing values. The definition of values may not be precise, and one person’s definition, of social responsibility for example, may not be shared by others. British Columbia (Canada) promotes its multiculturalism and this is reflected in curriculum values that incorporate respect for a range of beliefs. Moreover, British Columbia’s educational ecosystem includes independent, faith-based schools. While these schools must teach the provincial curriculum, they have the flexibility to teach content with faith-based principles and perspectives incorporated. This kind of local variation needs to be taken into account when mandating and/or assessing particular values at the provincial level.

  • Portugal noted a challenge for schools to assess attitudes and values in the area of citizenship in each of the curriculum’s subject areas, and observed that teachers are not necessarily familiar with appropriate tools to measure values and attitudes, and may require professional learning support.

When redesigning curriculum to embed attitudes and values, curriculum designers can anticipate that not all teachers will feel equally prepared for implementing as intended. Explicitly acknowledging the importance of aligning teacher education to these components of the curriculum sends an unambiguous message about the whole-child approach to the values and attitudes that underpin the curriculum. Including this acknowledgement in curriculum design may help guide teacher education providers to adapt their programmes to better support teachers in this task. It may also encourage local jurisdictions to prioritise relevant resources and professional development activities for teachers.

  • One study analysing the impact of including values education in teacher professional development in Australia reports an increase in teacher confidence in building positive relationships with their students and a sense of fulfilment (Curriculum Corporation, 2003[13]), which can contribute to overall quality of teaching and learning in schools (Lovat and Clement, 2008[14]).

  • Research conducted in the Finland and the United States suggests that teacher competence can foster purpose in young people (Bundick and Tirri, 2014[15]). The development of those competencies that reflect values and attitudes through teacher education and professional development can prove beneficial for students and teachers alike. More broadly, professional development practices that support teacher self-efficacy are likely to enable teachers to be more effective in teaching values education (Bray-Clark and Bates, 2003[16]). Teachers who feel more able and empowered to teach values are likely to do so more effectively.

Research about hidden curriculum reveals how cultural and societal beliefs and values can be portrayed within textbooks and be covert in nature (Hickman and Porfilio, 2012[17]). For example, various studies into hidden curriculum and textbook content have examined how manifestations of gender inequality, gender stereotyping and cultural and political biases exist in textbooks through language, visual imagery, and the omission of key information such as historical facts in history textbooks (Loewen, 2018[18]; Shinabe, 2018[19]; Lee, 2014[20]).

  • Hong Kong (China) has a textbook review process to ensure alignment of textbook content with the curriculum guides, including the knowledge, skills and values promoted in the curriculum.

  • In India, to avoid propagating certain ideologies, there has been strong lobbying over the years to ensure the quality of textbooks. To reduce bias, experts are invited from across the country, and draft curricula and policies are developed, triangulated and piloted.

Pedagogy can be an effective tool in the teaching of values. Some methods, such as direct instruction, may not necessarily support students’ understanding and application of attitudes and values. Internalising and learning values may require different approaches to help students experience and understand them.

An example of alignment of values with pedagogies is found in Japan. Moral education is an important dimension of education in the Japanese context. It has a place and time in the national curriculum and permeates teacher practice in all subjects with the provision of guidance about how values can be taught in classrooms (Bamkin, 2016[21]).

Practices that are considered effective for the teaching of values include role-modelling by teachers, role-playing by students, dramatic representations and mentoring (Berkowitz, 2011[22]; Gulati and Pant, n.d.[23]; Notman et al., 2012[24]; Thornberg and Oǧuz, 2013[25]). Other examples which have been noted in Sweden and Turkey are that teachers embed values in social interactions (Thornberg and Oǧuz, 2013[25]). Instead of making them stand-alone practices or activities, they are promoted in activities and actions between students and teachers. Values education can be an everyday practice rather than a stand-alone activity.

Other pedagogies to support values teaching relate to ‘critical pedagogy’. Following Paulo Freire’s theory in the 1960’s (1993[26]), this pedagogy is based on the belief that teaching should be an opportunity for learners to critically examine power structures and patterns of inequality. Values underpinning Freire’s pedagogical construct are equality, care and solidarity. Activities based on critical pedagogy principles include, for example, students inquiring into cultural and/or historical events leading to the language spoken and taught in a language class. The critical pedagogy approach may trigger students’ critical thinking about and questioning of established moral principles, or students reflecting on and suggesting ways to use science to increase personal, societal and/or global well-being (Mehisto, forthcoming[27]).

Box 4.1 illustrates a local initiative re-examining the goals of education with a special attention to attitudes and values.

Countries/jurisdictions have methods and strategies to train teachers for pedagogical change. When redesigning curriculum to embed attitudes and values, curriculum designers can anticipate that not all teachers will feel equally prepared for this content. Explicitly acknowledging the importance of aligning teacher education to these components of the curriculum sends an unambiguous message about the whole-child approach to the values and attitudes that underpin the curriculum. Values education can be incorporated into innovative training practices. Teachers are not only knowledge-acquisition facilitators, they also have to consider the moral impact on their students, as they play a crucial role in developing learners’ capacity to become responsible citizens (Muthigani, 2019[28]). For them to become enablers of values and attitudes, they need to be exposed to training in which teacher educators “display behaviours reflective of moral virtues such as fairness, honesty and adhere to professional codes of conduct.” (Lumpkin, 2008[29]).

Muthihani (2019[28]) proposed a four-point strategy which can be considered to make values training for future primary school teachers effective:

  1. 1. Educational planners and policy makers need to develop guidelines for teacher trainers. These guidelines should have objectives that are values-specific.

  2. 2. Professional development of lecturers (teachers’ trainers) should be considered by educational planners so that lecturers can enhance their skills in values development.

  3. 3. A mechanism should be established between teacher training schools and primary schools (and the schools to which the trainees are posted) so that lecturers are able to evaluate whether their graduates are teaching values as outlined in the curriculum.

  4. 4. The management of primary teacher training schools should work closely with the lecturers to create an environment that gives trainees the opportunity to practice values learned during their training.

Countries/jurisdictions recognised that not all teachers feel equally prepared to teach values and, thus, have developed a range of initiatives to support pedagogy and practice. These include national and local authorities developing localised teaching materials (Japan); taking a “train-the-trainer” approach and assigning a specialist teacher mentor per school (Portugal); creating teacher networks on values education and on-site support for curriculum design and implementation at the school level (Hong Kong (China)).

Peer-learning, sharing classroom-level practices, using online platforms as means of communication and sharing exemplar materials and Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are successful initiatives noted by the following countries/jurisdictions:

  • In Japan, to enhance development of moral education, MEXT provided support for teacher training by local government authorities using local teaching materials. Training is conducted in each prefecture for teachers who are then expected to supervise implementation of moral education. In addition, good practice in relation to moral education classes is provided online.

  • Portugal targets training with one teacher assigned per school who co-ordinates the Citizenship Strategy at the school level, so that there will be, ultimately, a total of 810 mentors. This approach aims to increase consistency in the quality of implementation. Portugal has reinforced this initiative in its professional development offering with a series of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) linked to the inclusion of values in curriculum.

  • To enhance the professional leadership of teachers in implementing values education, Hong Kong (China) introduced the Learning Circle of Values Education in the 2012/13 school year. On-site support in curriculum planning and teaching is provided to schools by seconded teachers and Education Bureau staff. To facilitate teachers’ professional development, peer-learning sessions and open classes are organised annually for participating schools to share their experiences.

While countries/jurisdictions recognise the need to assess or monitor students’ development of the values and attitudes that are prescribed by curriculum, methods that have worked well to assess competencies may not be the most appropriate for assessing values. As a result, a number of countries/jurisdictions have adopted alternative strategies to assess or monitor student progress in the development of values. These include student self-assessment (British Columbia (Canada)), monitoring school programmes (Chile) and excluding results of the assessment of students in Moral Education in junior high school and high school entrance examinations (Japan).

  • One of the approaches taken by British Columbia (Canada) has been to focus on students’ self-assessment of core competencies. Students reflect on their own development as educated citizens through self-assessment. Students reflect on how they believe they have demonstrated values, rather than the assessment being based on teacher observations of students’ values and beliefs.

  • In Chile, the Ministry of Education and the Education Quality Agency ensure the continuous and periodic evaluation of the educational system in schools. The evaluations are based on performance standards, learning standards and other indicators of educational quality, and these include the development of values among students in schools. To complement the evaluation of students’ achievement on learning standards, indicators measure aspects which reflect students’ values such as academic self-esteem and school motivation; school climate; citizenship participation and training; and gender equity.

  • In Japan, the subject Moral Education uses different assessment standards to accommodate the nature of the subject relative to other subjects in the curriculum. The assessment of students in Moral Education is not conducted using numerical standards used for other subjects, but through qualitative written descriptions, and this assessment is not considered in junior high school and high school entrance examinations. Given the importance that stakeholders place on entrance examinations in Japan, this measure serves to ease students’ anxiety that teachers’ assessments of their morality may be subjective and would have impact on entrance examination results.

A few countries recognised the difficulty to bring impact with a single intervention such as curriculum and thus, strategically, combine different measures to streamline or embed the development of attitudes and values into other initiatives that are highly relevant to such objectives, e.g. citizenship education, student profile as found in Portugal; and teacher education, development of textbooks and materials, in Hong Kong (China).

  • Portugal has a National Strategy for Citizenship Education (ENEC) which sets out a whole-school approach to citizenship education. The approach combines a subject called ‘Citizenship and Development’, mandatory for students in lower secondary education, with schools’ autonomy to incrementally put in place a sequenced set of activities to develop knowledge, skills and attitudes around citizenship education for each school year. This facilitates interconnection between curriculum and citizenship education, as well as engagement at the school and community levels. To achieve this, students are encouraged to develop and participate actively in projects that promote fairer and more inclusive societies within the context of democracy, respect for diversity and the defence of human rights. The general upper secondary school diploma is expected to include information regarding the impact of citizenship projects on school and on community life. In addition, schools also develop a Student Profile by the End of Compulsory Schooling, which is humanist-based, which defines the principles, vision, values and competencies students are expected to have developed by the time they graduate from upper secondary education. This strategy was piloted in schools in 2017 and has been gradually generalised from the 2018/19 school year onwards.

  • Hong Kong (China) has put in place a series of support measures on values education, including the provision of a values education curriculum framework, organising ongoing teacher professional development programmes, developing teaching and learning resource packages for schools’ use, and a textbook review process to ensure the alignment between the intended values promoted in the curriculum framework and textbook content, as well as recommendations for textbook publishers to include the latest curriculum updates (including those on values education) in their textbooks.


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← 1. Research to be developed in our forthcoming Ecosystem Approach to Curriculum Redesign and Implementation (Title to be Determined).

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