Values in Birmingham in March 2014. Birmingham

Values are an essential
component in an individual’s life. They are principles which affect one’s
behaviour in society and they are extremely vital in shaping one’s identity. In
this case, it is referring to a moral code which is specifically “British” and
it is regarded as fundamental beliefs  of
the nation. The decision to apply British ethics in Education was taken after
an incident which took place in Birmingham in March 2014.

Birmingham City Council
was investigating  some Muslim schools
following a letter suggesting that there was a plan to install school governors
who were keen to teach strong Islamist or Salafist-based curriculum.

In light of these
concerns, on the 27th of November 2014, the Department for Education
decided to implement British Values in the educational system in England. According
to Ofsted, the schools are required to promote democracy, rule of law,
individual liberty, mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths
and beliefs in lessons and extracurricular activities and this should be done
through the spiritual, moral, social and cultural development (SMSC). The
school’s ability in promoting these values will be assessed through SMSC, the
curriculum and school leadership.

The aim of this promotion
is to defeat extremism and emphasise respect for the British legal system and
for the public institutions. In such manner, there is a hope that young people
will positively make an impact in society and conform to the rules by avoiding
any opposing behaviour.

 

The term
‘British values’ was introduced to define identity and to lay foundations for
the rules of the country that should be accepted and followed by everyone.
However, in my opinion, these are universally held, ( if not practised ) values
that are basic to the UN’s Declaration of Human Rights, but making them
‘British’ implies that only England holds them and its thereby superior, and
also implies that British institutions and traditions are all worthy of
support. Teachers’ standards came to be perceived as political tools serving to
promote government approved ideologies of ‘being British’ (Maylor, 2016).

The fact
that there is also an emphasis on the ‘national history’, according to John
Denham’s speech, suggests a form of strong Nationalism which is contrary to the
need of inclusion and integration. How is an individual from a different
background  meant to feel part of the
British society when there is a strong focus on the British history? The word
‘British’ seem to cause controversy and some find this term  ‘parochial, patronising and arrogant’ (Rosen
2014). It alienates students and it makes them feel as if they need to
compromise their ethnic identities to become ‘British’. On the Key for School
Governors website one article argues that there is no need for a separate British
Values Policy because these values are already incorporated through existing
school policies (schoolgovernors.thekeysupport.com)   

Fundamental
British values have already been implicitly included in the Early Years
curriculum framework, legislation and policies since 2014. The EYFS sets the
standards that all early years providers must meet to ensure that children
learn and develop well and are kept healthy and safe. Ensuring that children,
from a young age, learn how to express themselves in a fair and sensitive way. Further,
it promotes teaching and learning to ensure children’s ‘school readiness’ and gives
children the broad range of knowledge and skills that provide the right
foundation for good future progress through school and life. Therefore, these
principles were already applied and in the following year the focus on them
became stronger as the Counter Terrorism and Security Act 2015 was introduced. The
act imposes a new statutory duty for higher education institutions to have
“due regard to the need to prevent individuals from being drawn into terrorism”.
This means that institutions now have a statutory obligation to engage with the
government’s Prevent agenda. The Channel Duty guidance (https://www.gov.uk/Channel_Duty_Guidance_April_2015.pdf)
is an early intervention strategy that supports children and is an extension of
safeguarding laws.

This
leads to the conclusion that these ethics  have been implemented before the ‘British’
term was introduced. I believe, there were enough tools to educate younger people
on respect and tolerance and trying to define them limits the values to a
specific nation.

Goddard
(2016) argues that it should be defined as ‘human’ values, believing that
referring to it as ‘British values’ creates a divide. The National Union of
Teachers passed a motion at its annual conference in 2016 condemning these ‘British
values’ as an act of cultural supremacism and called on teachers to celebrate
human morals and anti-racism rather than British values (Espinoza, 2016)

To
accept the rules that the Government has imposed, everyone needs to feel part
of the community. It demands an involvement of the whole country Unfortunately,
many communities that have settled in Britain may not define themselves as
British or may not be perceived or accepted as part of the British community.  In addition, it is fair to argue that not all
the teachers that teach and work in schools are British if the values are
exclusive to British, how are they supposed to protect a value that is alien to
them? Statistically,  only 48% of the
population identified as British (Bradley, 2008).

From a
personal perspective, I know how it feels to be an outsider in the country you
were born in. I never felt completely part of the Italian society. I was born
and raised in Italy and I lived there until I decided to attend a British
University. Although Italian school were attempting to promote integration and
values which form the essence of an Italian citizen, I never felt truly
accepted. The education focused on the Italian national history and it was
compulsory to know as an Italian. Although my nationality was Italian, my background
was multicultural. I had a perception of strong patriotism which the school
were trying to instil. Rather than being united as a country, I strongly think
that created a form of segregation.

The UK
Government’s inability to see the role it itself plays in spreading the very
divisions it is seeking to address. The UK Government upholds that it
celebrates tolerance, respects those of other beliefs, and that extremists are
those who do not. David Cameron’s 2011 speech at the Munich Security Conference
contributed in defining the then coalition government’s policy on inclusion and
extremism. Here, Cameron explains the threat stating that ‘in the UK, some
young men find it hard to identify with the traditional Islam practiced at home
by their parents, whose customs can seem staid when transplanted to modern
Western countries. But these young men find it hard to identify with Britain
too, because we have allowed the weakening of our collective identity.’
(ARTICLE) He then adds how ‘UK government has failed to provide a society to
which they feel they want to belong. We’ve even tolerated these segregated
communities behaving in ways that run completely counter to our values.’.
Ironically, his use of the word ‘us’ and ‘them’ indicates his attitude towards
what he perceives as two distinct communities. Yet, through placing blame for
segregation purely on the “other” community.

The idea
to promote morals which could prevent terrorism and extremism is well thought,
however there could be other ways to reinforce them instead of labelling  them and creating a new terminology.

The
society has to change and this starts from the practitioners. They could have
an effective impact on the younger generation by being good role models, they
need to evaluate the influence of their attitudes and behaviour when supporting
diversity, keeping children safe from extremism and combating stereotyping. A
reflection on their own values and attitudes is a fundamental starting point
because, unless they are secure in themselves it will be difficult to translate
this to the youngest children.

It is
also very important and vital that practitioners are in dialogue with the
students, they need to share and explore. There is a need to promote tolerance,
listen to each other and reflect on what needs to change. They should not just
be taught how to “behave” but they should also have opportunities to engage and
essentially have a voice. I believe dialogue is the foundation that democracy
is built on.

When one
considers the impact this has on schools, it appears that the government is
altering the role of schools quite dramatically. Whereas schools might be
conceptualised as spaces for ideas to be engaged with, and minds to be opened,
a school that aims to promote this discourse of “fundamental British values”,
aims instead to produce docile pupils, deferent to decision-makers in power.
(ARTICLE)

On the
other hand, if young people do not feel accepted, they will grow up feeling isolated
or rejected by the nation they live in and have made their home in. Many see
the term ‘British’ and naturally exclude people who were born in England but are
perceived as not British solely on the colour of their skin or their religion.
Hence why, it is essential to understand the anger that makes them feel outcast
enough to become radicalised. If they feel isolated they will start to
internalise it and they will soon start to search for acceptance and sadly,
sometimes they end up getting attention from the wrong group who has negative
assumptions and opinions about society.

 

Also, as
we can observe, the current situation is not ideal to promote such values or
rather, they appear contradicting. The introduction of Brexit has increased
racism in the country. The people of Britain voted for a British exit from the
EU in a referendum on June 23 2016. Brexit campaigners believe that British
voters have taken an opportunity to restore Britain’s sovereignty and to strictly
control immigration.

In this
case, it is quite hypocrite to fight for acceptance of others when the main
reasons of this referendum was to clearly send a message of rejection and
supremacy. This decision will not only affect the multicultural population in
United Kingdom but it will also highly affect education.

Brexit
is a most likely to decrease diversity and thus also diminish ‘mutual
understanding’ within schools. If the goal was to achieve national cohesion and
work together, this event has had an opposite effect as the referendum has
raised deep questions about identity and belonging for many young people, for
which an increasingly narrow academic curriculum has not left them adequately
equipped. As a result, ‘fundamental British values’ may have been tarnished by
the outbreaks of xenophobia that followed the referendum result.

The environment in which
we are living is now more complex and multiple with different cultures
developing in such a way that it is no longer possible to think of creating a
singular culture. This phenomenon is well known as globalization. Globalization
can lead us to avoid a rejection of even one’s own valuable culture and
traditions. It can also contribute to a new cooperative human society, a more
caring and compassionate human being. The right attitude towards globalization can
serve as a vessel for promotion of multiple connections . While we promote national
integration, we must also cultivate values required to live in harmony with the
global society.

 

To
acquire knowledge, young people need to successfully develop conflict
resolution, decision making skills, self-regulation, self-respect.

In order
to destroy terrorism the younger generation needs to believe that there is hope
for them, that the education system is there for them, that they will be able
to get a job and they will have a real strong and secure future in this country
and that they will be appreciated by society.

In the
schools, there should be a space for learning and for dialogue and it needs to
be included in the whole curriculum and culture of schools, and not be seen as
the an optional instrument.

The government
should enable teachers to continue asking challenging questions, acknowledging
the discomforting nature of some of the answers, and promoting a vision of our
young people as global and European citizens.

 

Value is something that
is not be taught but to be followed. The value education starts from the parent
who sends the child to the school to the driver who takes him back to home.
Each and every person associated with the school should follow the values which
need to be internalised by the student. There are numerous strategies which
could be adopted. For example, give periodical training to all the non-teaching
staff and contract workers associated with the school and make teachers role
model and encourage them to lead a life of good value. Moreover, once in every
semester the teacher should visit the students home and build in good relation
with his parents to discuss about his life style and the curriculum of study
should include a brief explanation of all universal religions, through stories
which keeps the child glued.

The values and attitudes
that get transmitted most often are rather contrary to the values desired by
the family, society or school. Propagating and derogatory images of women for
example is likely to make the young learner, instead of learning that all human
beings are equal and all men and women are equal, grow up with prejudices
injurious to women and society.

Students are required to
go through the process of learning in schools by which they are empowered to
filter the negative messages that the mass media propagates purely from a desire
of money.

They need to develop
discernment to respond with maturity to information and situations that create
corruption, violence, and hatred, particularly the misleading advertisements
and whatever is violent and unhealthy in the media.

Centred thinking, reflection,
social responsibility, questioning, discerning truth and facts, freedom from
biases are all important values and skills to be instilled in young learners.

There is a need to
examine and ensure how these issues and concerns are dealt appropriately in our
school system, in curriculum, teaching, the administrative processes, the
institutional ethos and over all climate of the school and how our students are
given opportunities to develop their opinions and beliefs to meet the above challenges
peacefully and creatively.

The books that students
read, the school activities that are favoured or not favoured, the methods of
teaching that are used by teachers, the role supervisors, teachers and pupils
are expected to play

in the maintenance of
the rules and regulations of school, the manner in which particular events are
celebrated and are chosen to highlight their significance, the methods of
evaluation, promotion, the way teachers are treated, the amount of freedom they
enjoy reflect and symbolize values.

 

Ultimately, the aim is
to ensure that cooperation becomes one’s internal natural behaviour. Attitudes,
values and skills cannot be developed by forcing students to memorise words,
and also not by obligations.

Experiences and
opportunities must be given to internalise such attitudes and values, which can
be remain and remembered in the long run. The learner can only then take a
conscious decision of practising values,

consciously and
responsibly.

As mentioned above, it
is also important to realize that discussions can help students become aware of
different ideas and view points, be tolerant to the different opinions, can help
them clarify their own perspectives through the effort of having to get across
to others, can help them resolve a dilemma or clarify their values.

This allows one to
choose to reflect on what is chosen and what is valued by the person. It aims
at helping students look closely at their ideas, behaviour, attitudes thereby
clarifying themselves what they really value. If students are given time and
space for thinking back on their experiences, they can then begin to see what
is important to them, where mistakes are being made, where things can be
improved.

 

Lastly, they need to
develop feelings of confidence, sharing and awareness of others as against egocentrism.
Experiences of working in groups also provides opportunities for learning from
each other, and to express feelings of approval, dislike and anger in healthy ways.
Focusing on following rules and regulations, respect for personal and public property,
and developing a sense of responsibility in daily actions is important. At this
stage, emphasis must be on providing success experience, receiving
reinforcements for positive behaviour, interaction with adults exemplifying
values to admire and identify with practicing right actions, behaviours,
manners and learning to appreciate good in oneself and other.

During this process,
their skills for rational thinking, communication, self-discipline need to be
strengthened. They need training to resolve, through dialogue, the conflicts
that they encounter in their day-to-day interactions with parents, peers and
teachers. They need to develop knowledge about the importance of interpersonal relationships,
as well as global and environmental issues. This is the time to enable them to
not only to be just receptive  but also
take on the responsibility to become productive and efficient members of society.
This is the time to focus on the value of unity and rights of others, and to
accept all human beings irrespective of cultural diversity. Since thinking is
fully developed, the approach to be used involves presenting reasoning about
what constitutes ethical and moral behaviours through discussions with adults
and fellow students which brings reflections and application of moral
reasoning; so that even in the absence of moral authority they could behave
like an ethically mature individual.