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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 24 June 2018

Moral education, critical thinking and discursive discourse

Instructors must use the opportunity presented by the moral education programme wisely

One of the outcomes of moral education is to bring young people to the realisation that good behaviour is good for both them and their community. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National
One of the outcomes of moral education is to bring young people to the realisation that good behaviour is good for both them and their community. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National

The new school year has brought many changes. Perhaps the most significant of those changes is the introduction of the new moral education classes. As The National reported, government and private schools will deliver a lesson per week on a range of topics aimed at making pupils “look into themselves and consider how they perceive the world”. Tariq Al Otaiba, senior associate for strategic affairs at the Crown Prince Court, said the moral education programme is designed to give students the ability to “think critically, to question, to look at the world through a moral spectrum”. Intriguingly, there will be no textbooks for students to refer to. “It was never designed to be a course taught in a book,” he added.

There is much to admire in the programme. Far too much learning is still done by rote in far too many schools in this country. If the moral education programme can shift the mentality to open up the minds of students then it will have more than fulfilled its purpose.

If there is a note of caution to sound it is about the absence of structure. This is both a blessing and a curse. Instructors must tread cautiously. Discursive discussion is a rare commodity in classrooms that are often focused only on getting through the demands of the curriculum and achieving success in end-of-year exams. Critical thinking should be encouraged in young minds, but we also hope that those who do discuss the moral education programme with students do apply at least some rigour. The risk is that without some structure to these lessons, the full promise of the course will not be delivered.

All of that will be for assessing once the programme is fully up and running. For now it is worth repeating that this an interesting and welcome addition to the academic timetable. Ultimately, we want our education system to produce rounded individuals. We want young people to be tolerant and understanding and for them to be functioning and reasonable members of society once they become adults. The hope is that the moral education programme will be central to achieving that ambition.

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