What Constitutes Ethics Education, and How Can We Implement It in Formal, Informal and Non-formal Educational Settings?

 Professor Scherto Gill, Director of Global Humanity for Peace Institute, University of Wales; Senior Fellow at the Guerrand-Hermès Foundation for Peace (GHFP) and Fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts (FRSA).

 Professor Scherto Gill, Director of Global Humanity for Peace Institute, University of Wales; Senior Fellow at the Guerrand-Hermès Foundation for Peace (GHFP) and Fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts (FRSA).

In 2021, G20 Interfaith Forum (IF20) Education Working Group launched a Global Listening Initiative (GLI), engaging over 2000 young people aged 14-19 from 26 countries, and seeking their perspectives on education, well-being and future of schooling. The IF20 Education Working Group research team captured and summarised the young people’s proposals into a Policy Brief presented to the G20 leaders. In Sept 2021, IF20 created a space for a high-level dialogue amongst the young participants of the GLI, ministers, leaders of international organisations, faith leaders, and educators.

In particular, young people’s perspectives and leaders’ recommendations have provided insights into what might constitute ethics education. Two major aspects are underlined: The first is that ethics education concerns learning to live out common human values, such as dignity, respect, kindness, empathy, and generosity. The second is that ethics education involves recognising and celebrating human differences, in our history, belief, societal aspiration, and cultural practices.

More importantly, it has been pointed out that at the core of ethics education lies a relational vision to be embraced by the learning community, with the aim to deepen our awareness and enrich our experience of human fraternity and global citizenship. From the perspectives of global young people, caring relationships and congenial processes such as co-creation and collaboration are comprised in their holistic well-being. For young people, holistic well-being means being well, living well, and becoming well together. They accentuate that the focus of future education must be on advancing and nurturing collective well-being, including the well-being of children, young people, teachers, and the wider community, and the flourishing of nature.

So the question is: How might ethics education thus conceived be implemented in formal, informal and non-formal education?

On this, global young people and leaders suggest that ethics education be more than a mere subject of study, and should be integral to all aspects of educative activities and endeavours. This entails living the values and embodying virtues in teaching and learning, in the process of making decisions that affect all, within the common lives of all stakeholders in the community, and beyond. Working out a maths puzzle with peers, listening to a friend in distress, communing with trees, and participating in civic conversations – all these are both the process and the outcome of ethics education. In doing so, children learn to embody the right attitudes, embrace the right relationships, and engage the right actions in the world and for the world. 

Likewise, for ethics education to bear such fruit, co-creating caring environments is a key to practice. From seating arrangement aimed at reducing hierarchy and encouraging dialogue, to democratic classrooms to empower inclusive participation; from physical spaces of light, beauty and conviviality, to digital resources accessible to all; from an inner landscape of quietude and attentiveness, to an educational ecosystem that invites co-belonging and love. 

Most crucially, children and young people regard themselves as co-creators of educational experiences in which their well-being unfolds and is enriched; and partners of community regeneration and social transformation. Ethics education thus cultivates an awareness of our common humanness in children from an early age, enabling them to appreciate diversity, practice the arts of listening and dialogue, and become truly caring.

 

by Professor Scherto Gill, Director of Global Humanity for Peace Institute, University of Wales; Senior Fellow at the Guerrand-Hermès Foundation for Peace (GHFP) and Fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts (FRSA). Professor Gill leads a UNESCO Initiative on Collective Healing and Educational Transformation and co-chairs the G20 Interfaith Forum's Education Working Group. Amongst her most recent publications are: Lest We Lose Love (Anthem Press) Happiness, Flourishing and the Good Life: A Transformative Vision of Human Well-Being (Routledge), Understanding Peace Holistically (Peter Lang), Being Peace, Making Peace (Spirit of Humanity Press); Ethical Education (Cambridge University Press), and Education as Humanisation (Routledge).