Values-based Education is a successful worldwide transformational movement for positive change.
VbE empowers educational settings to underpin their life and curriculum with universal life-enhancing human values such as respect, integrity, honesty and compassion.
It is an approach that differs from values education in one particular aspect. Values education teaches learners about values. Values-based Education provides a teaching environment, which is underpinned with values. This means that everything the school does is cross-referenced to its values. The impact is that learners experience these positive universal values first-hand throughout their schooling.
VbE was founded by educator Dr. Neil Hawkes, whose educational philosophy and methodologies have influenced educators and learners in the understanding and application of a values-based approach. His educational philosophy has facilitated the growth of a harmonious culture across multiple industries, businesses and education sectors globally. In this particular case study, however, we will focus on how VbE can inspire HAI Ambassadors working to develop the lives of children specifically.
Dr Neil Hawkes is trained in The Barrett Model and applies many of its principles implicitly within the Education sector.
“You may like this story that a colleague shared with me recently. He said if someone from outer space came down and met you, and you were holding a live fish in your hands, then the fish would be flapping around and gasping for air and would be highly distressed. We would say to the alien, “This is a fish.” And so, the alien then whizzes back into space, and naturally thinks, “Oh, that is a fish!”
My colleague continued to observe that this is a metaphor indicative of human beings now… We are like the fish, not in our natural environment and finding it difficult to relate to each other. We are therefore not behaving in the ways that we would be if we were in a natural values-based environment. We show signs of mental distress and are metaphorically thrashing around, gasping for air. What humanity needs is to nourish humanity’s innate ability to model and live life based on universal human values so that all can flourish.
I have had a varied and rich career as an educator in the UK. At the time when I was a Chief Adviser of a local education authority of many schools, I decided to return to a Headship to see if the Values-based Education approach would enhance the quality of education. I went as Principal to West Kidlington school in Oxfordshire, and for seven years, the staff and I, with the governors, and the parents embedded the concept in the school’s community. At the same time, I worked with Oxford University on a Doctoral Programme. I researched whether what the school was doing through Values-based Education made a difference personally, academically and socially.
Professor Terry Lovat, from Newcastle University Australia, visited the school and took the school’s ideas back to Australia. He ran a research programme with lots of schools embedding values education, to produce a longitudinal study. This validated my own research and what had been experienced in the UK. We found that academic diligence improved and that relational trust improved too. As people's awareness of values was heightened, behaviour improved and there grew an overall cohesion in the school community. Therefore, creating a better future for the children who certainly experienced, a sense of belonging. Terry Lovat, remarked, “I want this to be the gold standard of Education in Australia.”
The inner curriculum is trying to guide people to really think about how you develop self-leadership. I help people to understand that we need an ethical vocabulary. It's a case of getting the school community to meet together in a forum and to ask, “What are the values and dispositions we want to develop in our children?” I've supervised this process many times, and they always come up with a similar list of values. However, in a primary school, we need a minimum of 22 words to have an ethical vocabulary so that children can then be invited to explore and experience these values. Not merely to recite the values, but to experience “trust”, and “responsibility” so that it becomes their natural way of living.
Ethical intelligence is the ability to ethically self-regulate your own behaviour. I wrote a paper for the G20 Summit leaders stating that if they really want to achieve the world's sustainable goals, then you actually need to nurture ethical self-leadership.
Institutions, organizations, and governments need to be equipped to deal with complexity because none of our current systems can do this. The issues in the world are so complex, yet we're using old-fashioned thinking to try to solve our systemic problems. We have unfortunately jettisoned ethical systems when we need them most.
One of my heroes in education is a Ukrainian; his name is Sukholmlinsky. He wrote a beautiful book: My Heart I Give to Children, in which he described how he helped children to see the natural beauty of our world. He took four-year-olds outside early in the morning to watch the sunrise. He'd say, “Well, how did that make you feel? Now, is there a word that expresses that?” He approached language as an expression of experience.He didn’t use a formal, didactic approach saying, “Write this word down, and learn its meaning”. Young children learn through doing; they learn through experience.
Whenever I facilitate a training day, one of the first things I say is, “You probably think I've come here to talk to you about how you help children to develop their values… I pause and say, “That's way down the line; first of all, we're going to be thinking about YOU; Today is about you, and how you help yourself to turn up the volume, regarding your own values.”
When people are more aware of their own values, they’re invited to use them in their own lives, in their work and with their families.
Values-based education is the daily practice of using universal positive human values to underpin everything that happens in the culture of a school, or your business or family. You use the values vocabulary in any policy you write and you ask yourself: “Is this values-based? Am I being authentic? Am I being altruistic? Are we demonstrating empathy here? Is there trust going through our organisation?” You're looking at this language, and you're really checking out whether you live it. Once the adults start to understand the power of values in their lives, then they're in a position to model the values to others.
Children experience the values when the adults around them are modelling these concepts. For instance, when you're watching the pupils come into the classroom, you can say, “Thank you for cooperating this morning, I noticed you showed so much respect when you came in.” So implicitly, you're using the language of values. The video of Hinckley Park School is a great example of a community VbE school, which shows children using and understanding the meaning of values.
Yes, I think it helps in the sense that it gives children a secure sense of self. I also think in more organic terms, there are things you cannot measure. For example, I can't measure your happiness at this moment. I can see it on your face, but I can't measure it. However, I can give you a test in mathematics, and I can measure that. That’s why schooling currently places its focus on the measurement of the measurable. The personal growth of children’s inner-curriculum is subtle and is not easily measured in traditional ways.
A VbE school is built on seven pillars: modelling of values, an Inner Curriculum, reflective practices, a values-based atmosphere and culture, a values-based curriculum, values-based leadership, and the foundation of an ethical vocabulary based on values.
These pillars are translated into practices. For instance, in a values-based school, you don't have a hierarchy of relationships, only a hierarchy of roles. There is no special place for the Head to park a car; the photographs of staff in the school are mixed up and only their roles are labelled. You can see that the cleaner is seen as an equal human being.
My partner Jane said to me, “Isn't it strange when you go into a values-based school, you actually do feel the soul of it in the environment”. That's why when people ask me, do I have hope for humanity? I always have to say, “Yes”.
I won’t share the name of this school, however, I conducted an audit of a London school, where the children were unruly and the teachers were shouting to maintain discipline. Despite my initial training, upon my return visit to audit the school for the values Quality Mark, I said to the Principal, “I'm sorry, I can't give you the VbE quality mark.” He replied, “Why Neil?” I answered, “There are three people in your school who don't understand VbE. They are not modelling the enhancing values as the other teachers are. The children see those teachers, the ‘shouters’ and imitate this. The Principal said, “Well, next time you come here, maybe they will be behaving in accordance with our values or they will have moved on.”
If there are people who are unable to understand the essence of VbE, then perhaps they'd be happier doing something else, not trying to educate children. Sometimes, you have to be explicit about that. The next time I visited there was the consistency of values practice across the whole school. It was truly amazing.
If you want to know more www.valuesbasededucation Neil’s inspirational book, From My Heart - transforming lives through values is available on-line at Amazon.
When Ofsted (Government School Inspectors) came they said “Wow, what's happened to the behaviour here? The last time we came, we were on the point of placing the school under special measures. That is the impact of introducing Values-based education In a VbE school, the parents are your biggest advocates because the parents champion the values-culture of the school, and the positivity grows. Values-based schools worldwide are testimony to the transformational power, which a focus on human values creates. Schools where there is a focus on the holistic development of young people enable them to care for themselves, others and our beautiful planet.