High schools Challenges of education

It is a matter of great concern whether students are learning good lessons and becoming good people. Many teachers, educationists and parents in Nepal complain about an alarming rise in dishonesty, greed, disrespect, misbehaviour, wrong doing and negligence among students. Schools are largely held responsible for either bringing solutions or addressing their problems.

Schools mould their students. They do everything from community service to teaching moral education, inculcating good habits, values, rewarding good behaviour and developing students’ abilities in various fields. Students benefit from social service, moral lessons and by practising good habits. But how much have we achieved? In fact, the overall development of students do not depend only on school curriculum and teaching efforts but also on the maturity and ethical abilities of the people they interact with, like parents, teachers, friends, coaches, relatives and others.

Teachers foster students’ development not by being role models but by what they make of their relationships with students and their ability to appreciate. Students’ perspectives and the teachers’ ability to admit and learn from their mistakes, their generosity and their ability to help students develop moral thinking without shying away from their own moral authority are important factors. We can never improve students’ moral development in schools without focusing on developing adults’ maturity.

Moral qualities of students are shaped through the student-teacher relationship, because when we ask students about the strengths and weaknesses of their school, they simply complain on the weaknesses of teachers. The students try to sort out what they owe others, what they should stand for, what traditions are worth keeping, whether to follow rules, how to contribute to their family, classroom, community etc. and how to be a decent human being.

Teacher-student relationship also shapes students’ moral development through their influence on students’ emotional development. Most of the lessons that talk about moral development in schools assume that we can teach students to behave morally by inculcating in them virtues, standards, and a sense of right and wrong. Harvard child psychologist Jerome Kagan observes that violence prevention programmes that explain to students the harmful consequences of violence often do not help because the students know violence is wrong, what they cannot control is the shame and destructive impulses that fuel violence. Actually nobody usually lies, cheats or abuses others because they do not value honesty and respect; more likely, they suffer from feelings of inferiority, distrust, pessimism or egocentrism that blind them to others’ feelings. Researches suggest that anger, distrust or pessimism destroy caring, a sense of responsibility and other important moral qualities. As such, their moral beliefs conflict with their immoral actions. They justify stealing because society is corrupt or because all people are basically selfish.

Usually, interactions shape students’ moral behaviour. Many teachers are found to be effective at identifying and promoting emotional and ethical qualities. Many teachers communicate high moral expectations and provide opportunities for accomplishments that reduce students’ shame and distrust. Teachers when working to strengthen their pupils’ moral values undergo many awkward situations thereby causing depression and disillusionment. These undermine the morale of a large number of teachers in urban schools. Hence, the teachers are unable to get necessary materials for teaching; they feel abandoned, stuck in their classrooms; they don’t get sufficient support from seniors and administrators; they don’t believe that they have the abilities to deal with everyday problems.

There may be some obstacles to adults developing important moral qualities and that is a fundamental cultural misconception about the nature of adult’s moral lives. Most people don’t view themselves as engaged in their moral growth. Schools clearly can’t respond to all the troubles that lead to helplessness in teachers. But they can focus on two causes: the strain of dealing with students with behaviour problems and isolation. Many schools give priority to helping teachers work with students with behaviour problems, not only because these problems are so fraying to teachers but also because the problems undercut the learning of all students.

Schools may assist in getting the small number of teachers suffering from serious depression into treatment. They can also begin an education campaign on depression awareness and screening. But it does not have to be yet another task for schools already burdened with the hard work of improving instruction. Therefore, moral education is the need of today’s world education that imparts the qualities of empathy, patience, persistence, consistency and idealism to shepherd one’s moral growth.

Pradhan is the principal, Kathmandu University High School