Ethics is not only the ability of a person to decide what is right and what is wrong, what is good and what is bad, but it also puts the onus of responsibility on the person to then actually do the right thing.
As students spend most of their day time in schools, the teaching of ethics should form part of the school curriculum. The influence of teachers on a child’s mind and thinking cannot be under-estimated. Ethics can be taught either through formal or informal programs. In an informal program, it is left to the individual teachers to fit ethics education into their curriculum. However, in a formal program, there will be a structured, age-appropriate curriculum for teaching ethics. Ethics need not be religious, but it can be taught in a secular way so as to trigger ethical thinking and action in children.
The basic principles of secular ethics that can be taught in schools are as follows:
1. Do no harm
As far as possible, try not to hurt people. Even if hurting someone is unavoidable, try to minimize the hurt to the extent required and no more. Treating people around us with kindness is a necessity; this includes people who are less endowed than the normal person, like a person with physical or mental disabilities.
2. Make things better
One should now the difference between helping and hurting. Lend a helping hand to people in need. Cultivate the concept of community living and teach children to have trust in the community. It is equally important to learn not only how we can live well within our community, but also how can our community live well with other communities in the world.
3. Respect others
It is important to respect people around us. We show respect by telling the truth, keeping our promises, and not listening to or spreading rumours. It is equally important for a teacher to respect students. One of the primary goals underlying the function of a school is to create an ethical and law-abiding community with varying talents.
One of the foundational values for that is respect-respecting one another and our differences.
4. Be fair
Fairness is the willingness to turn an unjust situation into a just one. It has to do with treating others the way you would want to be treated. It includes being civil and being honourable in your deeds and actions.
5. Be loving
Be compassionate in your dealing with others. Show people you care about them. Empathize with people around you.
Teaching the above basic principles to children can go a long way in grooming ethical and law-abiding citizens. That is the best service that a school can do to the community.