“In the past it might have been possible to argue that schools were not central to the acquisition of values by students. But the transition that we have seen in the last 10-15 years in India is towards more urbanisation, a society where parents are outside the home more and where students are spending more and more time in school. So naturally the child will imbibe more from the school and from peers. Therefore, we very strongly believe that unless we focus on values education in the school environment this generation will be losing out as far as values are concerned. The school must play an active role.”
Vineet Joshi, CBSE Chairman
In 2009 the CBSE began a process that would lead to a much greater emphasis on values education in CBSE-affiliated schools. This took place in the context of a growing focus on ‘life skills’ for adolescents and a sense that, given the rapid changes brought about by globalisation and social media, the role of school in this area was more important than ever. At that time there were also moves to make education in India more holistic and assess co-scholastic (non-academic) as well as academic performance and success.
CBSE chose to focus on values that everyone could agree upon, referring to the ‘fundamental duties’ in the Indian constitution that was adopted in 1950 after independence from Britain. For CBSE values education is not another subject: it unifies all other subjects under a holistic vision and brings a human dimension to education.
CBSE has worked with teachers and leaders across its schools, along with philanthropic organisations, to develop and test resources and assessment methods which integrate values education into the curriculum. Values education is now being implemented in all schools affiliated with the CBSE and is part of assessment in Years 9 and 10, which means that it touches around three million young people at that level across India. Almost all teachers of those students have received some training.
Efforts had been made as long ago as 2001 to assess co-scholastic areas, with Boards being asked to issue students with a separate certificate.
“The system fell into disuse within a few years because nobody was asking for the separate certificate. The CBSE didn’t ask for it and neither did parents. From that we learned something that is really very obvious in retrospect and must be so in other countries as well, which is that things that don’t appear on the Board certificate are not taken as seriously as the things that do. In our country, where the Grade 10 Board examination is so important, this is even clearer.”
Vineet Joshi, CBSE Chairman
There are significant difficulties associated with assigning grade levels in such subjective domains, and CBSE recognises that instruments used to assess values should be about more than individual teachers’ impressions. Work with private providers has seen the development of instruments that use proven psychometric methodology as part of the assessment process.
To support teachers and to make its vision for values education clear, and to ensure that the approach was delivered across the whole curriculum, the CBSE published Values Education: A Handbook for Teachers in 2012. It also published a range of ‘Value cards’, which include suggestions for value-based activities at levels from Nursery to Year 12.
Also key to the implementation of the approach has been the co-development of curriculum resources with philanthropic organisations. The Ramakrishna Mission, a long-established charity, sees values education as core to the organization and to the development of India as a nation. The Delhi branch of the Mission brought together a team of 25 people to develop materials and work in schools, focusing on creating a structured program that could be scaled and have widespread impact.
The hour-long multi-media ‘Success Formula’ program engages students in real life scenarios and asks them how they would act and respond. It does not take the conventional approach of providing inputs to the student but creates an environment in which students can discover truths about values for themselves. To date the program has been run over 1000 times in schools, usually with Years 7, 8 and 9. In response to requests from many schools for a longer, more in-depth program, the Mission has since developed the Awakened Citizens program, which is currently running in more than 750 schools across Delhi-NCR, Bhopal, Kolkata, Chennai, Hyderabad and Bangalore.
The success of the values education initiative can be gauged in at least two ways. First, although there were some concerns expressed that a focus on values education might lead to diminished academic performance, data shows that the first students who were exposed to values education from Year 9 achieved academic results in Year 12 which exceeded those of the previous five years, according to both quantitative and qualitative assessments. There is also a second indicator of impact which relates to levels of stress that students experience during exam periods. In the first year under the new system the number of distress calls to the ‘stress line’ was substantially lower than in previous years, which is being seen as an indicator that a values orientation has helped students cope better with stress.
CBSE has taken a systematic and collaborative approach to the implementation of values education – involving school leaders, teachers and external partners throughout the design and delivery phases. The critical importance of values education is now being embraced within and across schools. Indu Khetarpal, Principal of Salwan Public School in Rajendra Nagar, New Delhi, believes in the fundamental role that values education in schools has to play – for individuals, for society and for the country as a whole.
“At the end of the day, it is only a values-based education system that can lead to the human development of the country. We have a set of values enshrined in our Constitution, and there is a paradigm shift going on in Indian education, so that we are now starting to teach those values and assess them as well. Students are learning how to apply values in everyday life. As the world becomes more individualistic and more materialist, schools have a very important role in making sure that our values are not lost.”