Academic journal article Australian Journal of Education

Moral Development and Student Motivation in Moral Education: A Singapore Study

Academic journal article Australian Journal of Education

Moral Development and Student Motivation in Moral Education: A Singapore Study

Article excerpt

Introduction

Moral education across contexts

The past decade has seen a revived interest in moral education (Mele, 2005; Park & Peterson, 2006; Wringe, 2006), prompted by a perceived global malaise resulting, firstly, from the surge in criminal and deviant behaviour in modern societies (Arjoon, 2005; Turiel, 2002) and, secondly, from a series of highly publicised violations of ethical conduct in diverse arenas. Shooting incidents in US institutions, such as those at Columbine High School in 1999, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in 2007 and Northern Illinois University in 2008, led to an accrued sense of urgency among authorities about the need to deal with the problems they revealed. Although it took tragedies of this magnitude to galvanise politicians and administrators into action, those who deal intimately with the young perpetrators of crime are well aware of the long-standing problems within school walls and beyond. For example, the vast literature on bullying in schools attests to the pervasiveness and depth of the problem (Espelage & Swearer, 2003; Garandeau & Cillessen, 2006; Olweus, 2003; Rigby, 2004; Smith, 2000). Another indication of the urgent need to reconsider the issue of morality in schools is the growing problem of academic dishonesty amongst students and across institutions. Many authors have deplored the numerous incidences of plagiarism and cheating within academic communities (Embleton & Helfer, 2007; Ferrari, 2005; Saunders, 1993; Simon et al., 2004).

The inculcation of moral values through education is, in itself, a controversial subject. The way in which moral education is conducted varies from country to country and from school to school. In democratic societies mindful of imposing unwanted beliefs on others, teacher educators face the dilemma of whether moral education should be inculcated implicitly within the hidden curriculum of the school or formally and explicitly positioned in the taught curriculum (Narvaez & Lapsley, 2008). With classrooms increasingly reflecting the pluralistic societies they support, there is a constant debate as to what to teach if an inclusive approach is to be adopted in the implementation of a moral education curriculum (Brimi, 2009). Nevertheless, societies at large expect their citizens to behave morally and, despite reservations about the teaching of morality, more schools in the USA have incorporated character education in their programs (Narvaez & Lapsley, 2008). But the literature shows that, in contexts such as the USA, there has been a general reluctance on the part of both teachers and students to engage in morality discussions or related programs. One contributing factor was that students often failed to take moral education programs seriously, dismissing them as oversimplifications and misrepresentations of real-life issues and character traits (Brimi, 2009; Romanowsky, 2003). Teachers, on the other hand, were generally ill prepared for the task (Narvaez & Lapsley, 2008) and were wary of imposing beliefs on reluctant students. In India, a country steeped in tradition and culture, this problem seems to have been averted through the adoption of an informal approach in fostering values in the child. It is perceived, even within the school community, that the family and the society play a greater role in promoting values than the school. Teachers there thus tend to favour informal approaches to values education, such as role-modelling, setting good examples and creating a positive and harmonious environment (Sharma & Mohite, 2007).

In China, moral education comes under the purview of citizenship education, collectively known as Deyu in Chinese, which denotes moral, political and ideological education. Since the turn of the century, the Deyu curriculum has undergone reform to cater to the needs of the people and the recent challenges encountered with the advent of the open-door policy and the ensuing socioeconomic changes (Zhao & Tan, 2007). …

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