Frequently Asked Questions

What is meant by values and values education?

Values are those qualities to which we ascribe worth and that influence our thinking and behaviour. They represent deeply held beliefs that are not easily changed and are primarily learnt in the home. Within the literature there are many definitions of values and they can be described as a small number of principles or a multitude of characteristics. In Values in NSW public schools , values can embrace all of these meanings, but primarily the document is based on a set of nine core values that capture the ideals and expected outcomes across the community.

Values influence all aspects of school life. They determine what students learn, how they learn and the way they learn. They influence all actions and decisions of schools, not only in classrooms but in the wider community.

Values education involves strategies that assist students to explore, discuss, analyse and act on values in the context of their learning and their interaction with others.

Values in NSW public schools (pdf 103kb) reaffirms that public schools teach, and have always taught, values. The nine core values provide a base to guide behaviour and decision making in public schools.

What are the core values?

Values in NSW public schools identifies nine core values. They are:

  1. Integrity
  2. Excellence
  3. Fairness
  4. Responsibility
  5. Democracy
  6. Cooperation
  7. Participation
  8. Respect
  9. Care

Why these core values?

These core values have been identified as including a range of secular and religious world- views and are common to most cultures. They underpin Australian society and are reflected in NSW Department of Education and Training policies.

They are supported by the key groups in public education Federation of Parents and Citizens' Associations of NSW, NSW Teachers Federation, Primary Principals' Association, Secondary Principals' Council and Public Education Council.

Is there any research?

The NSW approach to values education has been based on both international and Australian research.

This research shows that schools that have a positive impact on the development of students’ values include participation, encouragement to be responsible, an orderly school environment and clear rules that are fairly and consistently reinforced. (Values Education Study- Final Report 2003).

Research also indicates that the modelling of values by the school community is essential to effective values education and that the influence of parents in values formation is of huge importance. The research indicates that values can be taught and that the community expects public schools to teach values.

For further information about values education research see Professional Reading.

What is the role of parents?

The role of parents is crucial. Values are learnt mainly in the home and modified through relationships and life experiences. Schools, families and the community share the responsibility for teaching values. This reinforces the importance of partnerships between the school and parents.

Parents can support their children by modelling the core values.

What is the role of teachers?

Teachers help students to understand school policies by modelling and reinforcing practice consistent with the core values. They bring values to the surface in classrooms and help students relate values to their lives. They provide students with opportunities to explore the values that lie behind diverse community attitudes and to demonstrate core values.

Activities that develop and enhance communication, problem solving, critical thinking, cooperation and an awareness of personal, local, national and global responsibilities can all contribute to values education. For most teachers, bringing these values to the surface in the range of contexts explored in everyday lessons, is a key strategy for values education.

Shouldn't public schools be values free?

Public schools are not, nor have they ever been values free. They have always drawn on the broadly accepted values of the community. Public education statements of values attempt to define this common community view.

Public schools accept students from a variety of religious faiths and world views and have always stood for equality of opportunity, for fair play, for acceptance of diversity and for democracy.

Public schools provide a context for rational debate in those matters where the community may hold a range of positions based on how they apply the same core values. In these matters, the core values are explored without the adoption of a particular values position on the issues being studied.

The core values guide student welfare and discipline, communication with parents, opportunities for staff, students and parents to participate in school decision making.

Public schools are to open to all and give a high priority to the wellbeing of all students. They model the values that are essential to a just and civil society.

How are values taught?

Values education is about making the core values explicit in all school activities through modelling, discussion and critical reflection. Values education is not a separate program to be added to a busy school curriculum. Students explore values and discuss them in their learning.

Values are taught in the classroom and through the activities and relationships of the school and its community. They can be taught explicitly (by specific reference) and implicitly (by being embedded) through teaching, curriculum materials and resources and by the modelling of teachers and other students.

The approach to values education in NSW public schools is comprehensive and multi-faceted. It is not limited to one area of teaching or school activity or limited to additional one-off programs.

In what ways does values education benefit students?

The core values provide a standard to guide behaviour and decision making. Explicit teaching of the core values and the resulting discussion and reflection assists students to understand a complex and often contradictory world. It can give students the language to clarify their thinking and beliefs about what and who they want to be.

Values education can help students to explore diverse worldviews and develop informed opinions based on rational arguments.

Today's students will determine Australian society in the future. Values education helps to develop young people who will contribute to a society that is comfortable with diversity, socially cohesive, rejects violence and negative forms of discrimination, and is civil and socially just.

What are Values Education Forums?

The Australian Government has provided some funding for schools to hold a Values Education Forum. The forums provide an opportunity to bring together the ideas and commitment of a variety of people who have a stake in the success of the school.

Forums will be used to extend and complement the work already being done in values education. They will provide opportunities to strengthen communication and understanding within the school communities and to identify and communicate the schools achievements.

National Framework for Values Education in Australian Schools (2005) is compatible with Values in NSW public schools (2004). Both promote a whole school approach and recognize the importance of school community partnerships.

Can we use a commercial program to implement values education?

As always the school principal is responsible for curriculum resources and other school programs. In this case policy is about values across the contexts of classrooms and the whole school. The values statement warns against the use of "one-off programs, often additional to the curriculum, or focusing on only one area of teaching or school activity."

Schools should ensure that all resources or programs used to support values education are consistent with the statement and "provide students with opportunities to explore the values that lie behind diverse community attitudes to political and social concerns."