Values: Key to the Rise and Fall of Nations

Published on 17th October 2006

Education is a central element in development and modernization. It is a means of not only raising political and social consciousness, but also increasing the number of skilled workers. The benefits of education have stimulated an unprecedented growth of enrolment in Eritrean schools from 189 000 in 1992 to 600,000 in 2005.The number of teachers has risen as well  from 2,500 to 14,000. The government is keen on constructing kindergarten schools in cities and rural areas. In addition, elementary, intermediate and secondary schools are on the increase every year. Substantial investment has been made in Eritrean education sector for the last one and half decades.

 

What type of education is needed to empower citizens to become agents of change for a better world? This was an issue before delegates at the eighth UNESCO-Asia Pacific Programme of Education Innovation for Development (APEID) held at Bangkok, Thailand in 2004. In a world struggling with intolerance and fundamentalism, the perceptions about social-cohesion and meaning of “citizenship education” assume particular importance in countries like Eritrea where a high degree of patriotism is found.

 

The Case of Eritrea

 

In Eritrea, education is key to development and promoting the knowledge, skills, habits, values, or attitudes and understanding of the people in the country. Greater concern must be put into the means and ways by which education transfers knowledge and information to learners. Through education, people become useful members of the society and appreciate their cultural heritage. Education is not only acquired through schools/colleges/university, but also people acquire needed skills through every day activities such as reading newspapers and magazines to understand more about the outside-world, managing their money and preparing for a job or career.

 

In Eritrea, the current emphasis on values in education is a product of many years of contemplation into the sad degeneration of society into hedonism, corruption, poverty, inequity and injustice. The problem of value is currently assuming increasing prominence in educational discussions by parents, teachers and the society at large. The present situation in Eritrea however demands a system of education, which, apart from strengthening national unity, must strengthen social solidarity through meaningful and constructive value education. The weakening of moral values in social life is creating serious social and ethical conflicts. It is this changing context — the declining moral standards in personal and public life on one hand, and the national ideological commitment to the values of democracy and modernization on the other, that constituted the driving force behind the recommendations.

 

How Can We Prepare Good Citizens?

 

How can we prepare our future generations to cope with fast changing realities of today and tomorrow? How can we develop citizens who can bring about the transformation of the culture of violence, intolerance and greed to one of peace, non-violence and respect for one another? There is no ready-made solution waiting to be adopted. Eritrea is home for nine ethnic groups with different faiths. These are: Tigrigna, Tigre, Saho, Afar, Bilein, Hidareb, Kunama, Nara and Rashaida. All these ethnic groups have their own languages and cultures. It should look to its own, rich spiritual tradition to find the ways to struggle with contemporary problems.

 

There is no doubt that Eritrea is aware that the ideal type of citizen will be shaped by an educational paradigm. In line with this, it has been providing 12th Grade education in Warsay Yikeallo Secondary School in Sawa for the last 4 years, to integrate students and promote unity. The national goal of striking unity in diversity must be realised through the approaches that followed in Eritrean educational policies, programmes and practices and their implementation in the schools.

 

Teachers should inculcate meaningful interaction between the educator, learner and learners themselves. There is a popular misconception — which perhaps led to the postponement of value education instruction in Eritrea for years — that values are “better caught than taught”. In reality however, values are both caught and taught. Learning does not solely come from the teacher. The educator is both the teacher and his peer group. The teacher is more of a guide and facilitator, and indeed, the true partner in learning. The success of the valuing process, according to contemporary educationists, lies in encouraging the learner to ask the “Why” and “What for” at the right time. This tendency checks the proliferation of blind faith.

 

Value education is therefore not simply the heart of education, but also the education of the heart. It is a necessary component of holistic citizenship education. The Ministry of Education does not recommend mere teaching about values but rather learning how to value, how to bring knowledge into the deeper level of understanding and insights. The holistic learning experience aims at the internalization of values by the learner and translating them into their behaviour.

 

It is a time for decision makers and professionals in the field of education to lead in the total effort of designing and implementing new and more effective ways of preparing the future citizens and future leaders of Eritrea into the creation of better societies.

 

While there is general dissatisfaction with the fall in moral standards, there has been no concerted attempt on the part of society to address itself directly to the problem of value education. Unfortunately, education is becoming more or less materialistic and the value traditions are being slowly given up. The degeneration in the present day life, the demoralization of public and private life and the utter disregard for values, are all traceable to the fact that moral, religious and spiritual education has not been given due place in the educational system. Religion is a great motivating force that is bound up with the formation of character and the inculcation of ethical values. A national system of education that is related to life needs and inspiration of the people cannot afford to ignore this purposeful force.

 

Value deficiency is witnessed in many ways. The democratic ideology that has been accepted by the country is yet to be actualized in the form of social and economic democracy as to realize democratic values guaranteed by the Constitution of Eritrea. The present Eritrean educational system reflects more or less borrowed ideologies and philosophies. National values are ignored. Educators are not being clearly oriented to the national values, ideas, ideals and ideologies that they have to inculcate in the students. The student community is drowned neck-deep in poverty and ignorance and don’t understand the values of contemporary Eritrea.

 

Value education consists not in unwilling adherence to a set of rules and regulations but in the building and strengthening of positive sentiments for people and ideals. It should prepare individuals for participation in social life and provide a healthy climate for sharing responsibilities, community life and relationships that prevailed in Eritrea for generations.

 

Concerned parties, stakeholders and beneficiaries must work hard to strengthen value education. And the focus of this programme must be on generating awareness, material development, teacher training, development of school programmes, promotion of research and innovations in the area of education of human values and development of a framework of value education for the school system in Eritrea. In this context, the MoE has to set up a special department, which can be responsible for linkages, networking, monitoring and follow up, at the country level, zoba, sub-zoba and grass-root level. This department should organize national consultation and regional workshops on value education with focus on strategies of awareness generation, material development and teacher training in the country.

 

No real integration or internalization of a value can be achieved unless the learner agrees with it. Communication is the key in this. This is what we lack in Eritrea. In value education, more than in the academics, educators will never be able to impose their values. Rather, they must circulate in the community of the learner and pass on, through discipline, the fine humanism of respecting others in the same manner that one expects to be respected in return. As this climate of respect surrounds the learners, they automatically imbibe an attitude of tolerance towards their fellow men and this would certainly activate the human development that eventually leads national development.


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