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Enhancing Educational and Cultural Values (Value-Based Education) Among Students in Persian Gulf-based Indian Schools: A Study

P. L. Joshi, Professor, University of Bahrain, Manama, Bahrain, Hemalatha Jayagopalan, Teacher, FAIPS-DPS, Kuwait, November 14, 2007

Over 70 Indian schools in the Persian Gulf region, with more than 150,000 students, follow a Central Board of Secondary Education (C.B.S.E.) course curriculum. (Photo: Manan Vatsyayana / AFP-Getty Images)

Today, a number of experimental models of imparting education at the school level are being introduced. In the United States and Australia, outcomes-based education or standards-based education, which claims an objectives-based assessment of student's performance, are being tested. However, outcomes-based education has been often labeled as controversial because the emphasis in this system is on higher reading standards and algebra. The system may not adequately emphasize the educational and cultural values among students. Some consider it a "dumping down" of education in which academic and factual matter is replaced by vague and subjective learning outcomes. There is no real curriculum (www.outcomeseducation.com). Therefore, a holistic approach to students' education is needed, one that provides complete education of mind and body through critical educational thinking and innovative approaches.

In 1988, the Conference of European Ministers of Education (MINEDUROPE) provided the basis for creating a more lively perception of values, thinking, and behavior that follow from the recognition of humanistic, cultural, and international dimensions of education. Educators were encouraged to realize this and started emphasizing on value-based education in schools. Indian education experts have been advocating the implementation of value-based education among Indian schools. Addressing the need to introduce value-based education in schools in August 2002, the National Council for Education Research and Training (N.C.E.R.T.) organized a program on "National Consultation on Value Education in Indian Schools—Experiences and Strategies of Implementation." Similarly, the Parliamentary Committee in India, in its 81st report on value-based education in 1999, strongly suggested that it be introduced at the school level and extended to college and university level. In the secondary stage, some advanced values, which are of vital importance for national integration, should be integrated into the syllabus. According to the committee, "Education should aim at multifaceted development of a human being—his intellectual, physical, spiritual, and ethical development. Youth is the mirror in which future of a nation is fully reflected. In order to preserve, maintain and advance the position of our country in the world, it is imperative that there should be a comprehensive program of value-based education starting from the pre-primary level, embracing the entire spectrum of educational process" (rajyasabha.nic.in).

The study of moral and ethical values that make us a perfect person can be considered value-based education Advocates of value-based education argue that educating students about values is more important than just teaching them algebra, biology, or even literature. Mahatma Gandhi once said that education not only moulds the new generation but also reflects a society's fundamental assumptions about itself and the individuals that compose it. His views are reflected in the following:

"The real difficulty is that people have no idea of what education truly is. We assess the value of education in the same manner as we assess the value of land or of shares in the stock-exchange market. We want to provide only such education as would enable the student to earn more. We hardly give any thought to the improvement of the character of the educated. The girls, we say, do not have to earn; so why should they be educated? As long as such ideas persist there is no hope of our ever knowing the true value of education" (www.infed.org).

More recently, the Special Subject Group on Policy Framework for Private Investment in Education, Health, and Rural Development in India stated, "Unfortunately, training of young minds on values has taken a back seat in Indian society, given its obsession with material pursuits. Compounding this is the fact that there are hardly any role models in public life. Today there is a crisis of character in Indian society. To build a society with good character and citizenship, it is important that value education is introduced in preschool and reinforced in primary, secondary, and higher education" (indiaimage.nic.in).

The primary reason for this may be based on the argument that a normal educational course has three processes: (1) providing general and specific information and knowledge, (2) teaching skills, and (3) inculcating values. But today's education is geared mainly to the first process, with little emphasis on the second and very minimal emphasis on the third.

Indian Schools in the Persian Gulf Region

Currently, there are over 70 Indian schools in Persian Gulf region that follow a Central Board of Secondary Education (C.B.S.E.) course curriculum (Figure 1). Over 150,000 students study in all these schools. The largest spread of such schools is found in the United Arab Emirates, where more than 50 percent of the total schools are located. This clearly shows their growing popularity in imparting quality education to the children of nonresident Indians (N.R.I.'s). With a majority of their teachers being from India, most of the schools produce an excellent academic performance in C.B.S.E. examinations. Thousands of their ex-students have been faring very well both as university students and as professionals in different parts of the world and particularly in the Persian Gulf region and India

Figure 1: Indian schools in the Persian Gulf region.

Objectives and Methodology

A survey—the first of its kind—of the Persian Gulf-based Indian schools that follow the C.B.S.E. course curriculum was carried out with an objective to appreciate the role of these schools in enhancing educational and cultural values in their students, that is, to get an idea of whether value-based education is being emphasized or not. A questionnaire was sent to the heads, vice principals, and senior teachers of 47 schools. Twenty questionnaires were received back from Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia. The response rate was 42.6 percent. The study was conducted from July-October 2007. In a few cases, clarifications were also sought by telephone with respect to open-ended comments and suggestions.

Findings

The results are presented in Tables 1 and 2.

Table 1: Some common indicators of value-based education (number of responses = 20).

From the study findings (Table 1), the respondents agreed that students in Persian Gulf-based Indian schools strongly value "peaceful coexistence with people from other cultures" and "pride for the country, the anthem, the flag." Over 90 percent of respondents rated them very high. It seems that these schools try to provide a broader-based secular education and do not necessarily emphasize only Indian values. This is reflected in the responses to "peaceful coexistence with people from other cultures," which received rank one in this study (65% of the respondents strongly agreed).

In open-ended comments, a few respondents stated that their schools endeavored to encourage students to feel pride for their country, and respect for the anthem and the flag. Special assemblies with themes like "Proud to Be Indian," as conducted in a school in Muscat, Oman, teaches the biography of the eminent people of India. On these occasions the hoisting of the national flag and other activities are organized. One respondent from Kuwait stated, "Indian schools foster a spirit of nationalism among their students." However, another respondent observed that of "pride for the country," there is indifference among some students who are used to the comfortable lifestyle in the Gulf and perhaps do not enjoy a visit to their home country in India." Similarly, the values related to "peaceful coexistence with people from other cultures" are also inculcated among N.R.I. students by undertaking various activities. Carnivals are a regular annual event in most of the Persian Gulf-based Indian schools.

The study also found that 86 percent (mean = 4.30) of respondents stated that students show "respect for elders while interacting," follow "dress culture" (85.0%) and have "awareness and respect for traditional dance and music (83.0%).

"Respect for the teacher (standing while talking to him/her)" is a core Indian value that still persists but the atmosphere nowadays is more relaxed. The respondents seem to differ in their perceptions on this issue as only 30.0 % of them strongly agreed, 50.0% agreed and 20.0% were either neutral or disagreed. Most respondents felt that they had the freedom to monitor discipline, as they have good support from school authorities. Furthermore, we also asked to the respondents of eight large schools by telephone "whether their students stand up as a mark of respect when their teachers walk into the classes." All of them replied in the affirmative and stated that the students are generally trained in this regard in a traditional way. However, at junior level, sometimes a few students may not follow it, but the schools do emphasize it. Additionally, responses show a positive attitude toward generosity and sharing of information and knowledge. One Dubai-based school's Web site states, "Our universal values program helps students develop the values, principles, and ethics that are respected, admired, and accepted in all cultures around the world. Students are taught healthy social attitudes and a spirit of humanity, providing the ethical foundations and social skills to guide them through life." To achieve this, the school undertakes a "variety of activities and experiences based on the understanding of universal values, which teaches students to make positive contributions to their peers, their schools, and the community."

Furthermore, the respondents stated that their schools only monitor "dress culture" among students if they wear proper uniform during school hours, and this is in accordance with rules and codes followed in the Persian Gulf region. Local environment and parental guidance play a major role in this aspect. Few respondents opined that strict punishments were not enforced "like before/as in India" and that the atmosphere was more relaxed and relationships and interactions with students more friendly than in India. However, there appears to be a tendency among the students to dress toward the Western culture because of the existence of a large international community in the Persian Gulf region.

Regarding "awareness and respect of traditional dance and music," it seems that good measures are taken by schools to impart this value among students. The celebration of Indian festivals and important days in Indian history takes place by enacting historical events. It is hoped that these activities will inspire students and enhance this value. For example, Indian School, Bahrain, which is one of the leading schools in the region, conducts annually two major activities: (1) "Rithu"—the Indian School youth festival in which a majority of the students participate in various cultural and historical competitions for a week, and (2) "Harmony"—the inter-school youth festival, an extension of "Rithu" in which schools from Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar, and even some schools from India, participate.

A few respondents, particularly from the United Arab Emirates, also stated that "honesty," "truthfulness," "care and concern for others rights," "brotherhood," and "frequent prayer calls" are other values that their schools emphasize to students. Therefore, it is very clear that the students in Persian Gulf-based Indian schools generally adhere to educational and cultural value systems and their schools emphasize these values through various programs and activities.

Measures and Strategies

Table 2 presents responses on the specific and general measures taken by these schools to emphasize value-based education.

Table 2: Measures taken by Persian Gulf-based Indian schools to achieve educational and cultural values (number of respondents= 20).

The survey responses reveal (Table 2) that among the specific and strong measures implemented by these schools to achieve the objectives of value-based education are: "cultural programs in schools" (98.0%), "formation of special assemblies" (97.0%), and "appointment of Indian teachers" (90.0%). On the other hand, a good number (85.0%) of respondents also agreed that "rules and discipline are maintained in the school." However, only eight respondents (44.4%) strongly agreed that "visit and address by Indian dignitaries" are organized in order to enhance the value-based education for their students. In this regard, one respondent from the Asian School, Bahrain suggests, "Indian Embassies in the region can arrange for visits of eminent personalities to Gulf countries so to enlighten and guide the Gulf students." Other general measures taken by these schools are: "student exchange program," "frequent visits to India and other countries," "weekly dedications for festivals of India," "value for the month," "Hindi language" etc.

The respondent from M.E.S. Indian School in Doha, Qatar, stated that their students periodically take part in "Mock Parliamentary Sessions." Most Persian Gulf-based Indian schools encourage their students to participate in "“Model United Nation's sessions" in which students from different cultures discuss global issues. Other measures taken by the same school include: "Indo-Qatar cultural week celebration," and "staging Indian cultural items during Qatar's summer and winter festivals," which is organized by the Ministry of Tourism. Similarly, to enhance these values among the students, the respondent from Indian School in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, stated that his school follows "specific general assembly sessions, meaningful group discussions, one-to-one discussions with parents and students."

A few respondents also stated that there might be a small gap in following the above values for students aged 14-17 as the students change in this age group. Therefore, they need to be monitored on a one-to-one basis. It is observed by most educators that Indian schools and their students in the Persian Gulf are more aware of the various cultural differences than students studying in India as all strata of society and people from all regions of the country can be found in the Gulf. So, the culture awareness is better among N.R.I.'s, as is the education. Also, the educational curriculum follows C.B.S.E. standards and rightly interprets and promotes the Indian value system.

One respondent from Doha, Qatar, stated that his school organizes a three-hour, themed cultural program every year on (1) various aspects of Indian culture depicting all the major festivals of India with pomp and color, (2) marriage ceremonies performed by various communities in India, and (3) a staged train journey from Kanyakumari to Kashmir displaying the essential cultural features of the states in India. It is clear that all these activities enhance the active participation of students who are exposed to various educational and cultural values of India and also to the local culture.

Some schools emphasize the overall learning of their students and have designed a number of activities and programs in order to enhance their skills. For example, the vice principal of Indian School in Bahrain, stated, "We have introduced 'STEP' (Students' Talent Enrichment Program), which is compulsory for all the students of classes V-XII. In this program, they learn the organizational ability, develop leadership qualities, interactions with fellow students, and above all, discard the fear of standing in front of a group and speak a few words." Another respondent stated that "value inculcating topics are given as assignments for essay writing to the students in order to enhance their writing skills."

Influence of the Local Environment

When asked whether the students in Indian schools in the Persian Gulf region are more disciplined and cultured in their behavior compared to their counterparts in India, as expected 19 respondents (95.0%) stated "yes," except one respondent who stated "not always necessary." A majority of the respondents said the key reason for having well maintained discipline among the students in Indian schools may be attributed to the local environment and culture and the stringent social and legal systems enforced in the Persian Gulf region that largely influence students' discipline. As parental involvement is much higher than in India, the students are well taught about the general public code of conduct and community services. The school administrator of one school in Dubai stated, "The local customs and traditions play a good role in the formation of social discipline and its presentation." At the same time, the involvement of most of the students from senior classes and teachers in various activities provide ample opportunities to be well aware of the local environment and legal system.

The existence of a large number of Indian community clubs in the region also provides students with a harmonized and conducive environment for interaction and enables them to learn from the external environment. One respondent vehemently stated that "expatriate Indians form a large community in the Gulf. Being away from the country, they tend to seek a group for moral, mental, and physical support. Cultural get-togethers are an excuse to interact. Naturally, they are cautious, disciplined, and more cultured. They remember the entire special days and festivals, their background, and culture of the country, more than their counterparts in India."

Emphasis in Educational Curriculum

An important question included in the questionnaire was whether the educational curriculum followed by Indian schools in the Persian Gulf region adequately emphasizes enhancing Indian cultural values so they are clearly understood by students. Responses reveal that 75 percent of the respondents agreed. Respondents from the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain did not agree, and they provided some reasons: (1) too much emphasis on academic excellence at the cost of values, and (2) commercial nature of the educational institutions do not very highly emphasize such values. Other respondents from Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates strongly believed that the educational experts from N.C.E.R.T. had designed the curriculum and wisely included the value system. National and state boards have also added input to make this richer. At the same time, schools have some flexibility in implementation. On the other hand, one respondent from Bahrain pointed out that "this is being an arena for students of Indian origin and other nationalities, we don't spend full time in stressing the Indian cultural and other value systems, but certainly it is enhanced in their minds through talks, shows, interactions, and youth festivals."

As everywhere, there is always scope to improvise. A senior teacher suggested that a team consisting of senior and experimental teachers from all the Indian Schools in the Persian Gulf could formulate specific strategies and conduct workshops on value-based education. Positive efforts like this would help project the Indian students in the Persian Gulf as a shining model for India.

Conclusions

From this study, it clearly emerges from the perceptions of the respondents that the Persian Gulf-based Indian schools have been endeavoring their best to provide value-based education to their students. They try to provide a broad-based education system and not necessarily only Indian values all the time. It also seems that these schools strive to achieve all-around development of their students in order to build and inculcate in them the desired educational and cultural values to be better citizens. For example, one of the Indian schools in Kuwait elucidates that one of its main objectives is "to offer such education to ensure not only academic excellence but also character building, much wanting in the so-called modern system of education and to inculcate in students, the very values that will make them critically aware of social realities and develop in them a concern for justice…"

Education being an integral part of every individual's life in society, the right type of value-based education should be offered in the right type of environment to the students in Indian schools. These schools should focus on value-based education for development of a knowledge-based society, so that quality education will bring more accolades to their students and the schools themselves. This will ensure that students grow in both mind and heart, and learn the special virtues of life. This may change people's attitudes from one of only gaining an education for a particular job and the basic skills that are needed to make a living. In the present day, in any society, there is an urge toward the spirit of coexistence, tolerance, and mutual respect among individuals. Placing the highest priority and focus on value-based education will greatly achieve those traits among the younger generation. As a role model for society, teachers of these schools have to be alert, agile, and sensitive to these educational needs and should act as harbingers of change. They have a tremendous responsibility to create an intellectual environment conducive to modern education learning so these schools become models in imparting value-based education.

In order to make the teachers and schools more accountable in the above context, it is suggested that the value added measurement (V.A.M.) system of assessment should also be considered. This system assumes that teachers are the most important factors affecting a student's learning. The amount of value that the teacher adds to each student can be precisely measured. There are some attractions of V.A.M. to policy makers, for example, "the government can focus on teacher preparation program, administrators may be able to focus on school and teacher's effectiveness, teachers may be able to focus on specific needs of students, and the parents may be in a good position to understand their children's academic growth as well as the values." Further, it is strongly suggested that every school form a "value education committee" comprised of senior teachers, administrators, parents, and social organizations to serve as a guiding force and to enlighten the students to the importance and implications of these values. This committee may organize guest lectures by public personalities during students' extra-curriculum hours. The committee may meet and review these activities periodically.

Future Challenges

While updating their educational curricula, it may be of great value to these schools to be aware of the challenges being posed by the process of globalization in all fields and its deep impact on knowledge and educational values. These challenges may be (1) global challenges, which are external to the world of education (2) internal challenges of the education system itself, and (3) probable challenges specific to the Persian Gulf region. Greater exposure and knowledge of world geography and languages, information technology, access to the Internet, etc. would help their students to excel. In addition, more and more workshops should be organized for students and teachers. The teachers should teach the subject materials by giving good examples and should follow the "walking, talking, and chalking" method in the classroom. This will make the teaching and learning easy for the students. Someone once said that good schools are made by good teachers; therefore, greater stress should also be put on the teacher's creativity as well as the emphasis on teachers as role models.

Note: Thanks are due to Mr. R.V.S. Mani, Muscat, Oman, for his valuable suggestions in the design of the questionnaire, and to Sweta Joshi for sharing her thoughts. Thanks are also due to all respondents who extended their kind cooperation in this survey. However, the opinions expressed in this article are those of the researchers and not of the institutions at which they work.

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