Ethical standards in education contain basic principles, procedures and behavior patterns based on commitment to core values that are deeply rooted in education. Ethical standards enable educators, students and administrators to maintain and promote quality education.
The principles of ethical conduct lie at the core of the teaching profession. The introduction of a set of ethical norms agreed by both the teaching profession and the public provides a collective understanding of educators' role.
"With students daily observing a decline in moral behavior from individuals entrusted with leadership positions, measures to improve ethical conduct are needed more than ever in education. Ten recommendations for improving ethical conduct are provided in this discussion." (Bialaszewski, D. & Bialaszewski, M., 2005).
When ethical conduct is integrated into teaching, then instruction can be performed properly, according to researchers. Teachers' ethical conduct at school can be improved by the introduction of clear standards and instructional strategies that properly target students' needs. The school administration can also help improve ethical standards at school by review of lesson plans and visit classes.
The Ontario College of Teachers has defined four ethical standards in education: care, respect, trust and integrity. Care stands for compassion, acceptance and efforts to develop students' potential. Respect is based on the honor of dignity, emotional wellness, cultural values and freedom. Trust embodies fairness and honesty, whereas integrity consists of honesty, reliability and moral action.
Certain responsibilities are inherent to the teaching profession. The teacher is expected to respect the students and to believe in their dignity. In democratic countries, the educational system has to ensure the freedom to learn and the equal access to education regardless of one's race, color, creed, sex, national origin, marital status, political or religious beliefs, family, social or cultural background, or sexual orientation.
The National Education Association (NEA) in the United States, formulated in 1975, has two major principles of ethical standards in education: commitment to the student and commitment to the profession. According to the NEA, the educator has to enable each student to develop his or her potential and help him or her find a place as a member of society. This will be ensured through the stimulation of acquisition of knowledge. In particular, the teacher has to encourage the student's independent action in pursuit of learning. The educator has to respect various points of view. He or she has to protect students from hazardous conditions, and cannot deliberately expose students to embarrassment and disparagement. Students cannot be unfairly excluded from programs. Teachers are also forbidden to use their position for personal advantage. Furthermore, they are obliged to keep confidential information that has been made known to them via the teaching process.
The teacher is also expected to promote certain ethical standards among students, teaching them to respect other people, to understand the diversity of values and beliefs and accept various opinions. The education should also prevent discriminatory behavior among students. Ethical issues can be integrated in the course of the regular discussion as well as in dedicated lectures. Teachers can also share personal reflections and insights with an ethical message.
Teachers are also responsible for the physical development of students and the learning environment. They should ensure a safe and supportive physical environment.
The educator is also supposed to establish relationships with students' families.
On the other hand, the teacher is supposed to adhere to the highest ideals of the profession. The educator has to stick to and raise professional efforts and ensure a favorable learning climate.
Students are entitled to file complaints against teachers who break the code of conduct. In the United States, school boards can investigate complaints against educators. The board can also impose penalties if the teacher is found to be guilty of breach of the code of conduct. These sanctions can include disciplinary actions such as revocation of the teaching license.