What is ethics in education?
Ethics are standards set for you to recognise your actions as right or wrong. It helps categorise discipline, honesty and integrity in our actions performed during the day. Acting as a guideline to influence behaviour and making the right choice, it is easier for individuals to abide by rules and act responsibly with ethics.
Ethics in education helps run the system smoothly. It sets standards that are applicable and protects the interest of both the learner and tutor. Teachers are responsible to help develop the personality of students and act as a mentor to them to influence their personal development and behaviour. Whereas students should realise the importance of responsibility and move forward with applying ethical practices over time. (Direct, 2015) It requires a lot of patience to practice ethics and understand that each student is different. Each student requires different levels of attention and guidelines. This way they not only understand the importance of ethics but learn to act responsibly and practice self-discipline.
According to Weinstein (Weinstein, 2017), there are five basic principles of ethics, common to all faiths and disciples;
- Do not harm: try not to hurt others with your actions.
- Make things better: helping people and knowing the difference between helping and hurting, acting as a community wherever you stand.
- Respect others: always speak the truth and keep your promises, if someone trusts you with information keep it to yourself but report the wrongdoings.
- Be fair: keep a balance on your emotions and do not punish people unnecessarily.
- Be loving: compassion for others, show that you care.
These values may be defined differently in parts of the world but are cross-cultural and expected generally among all groups of people. Everyone around us is looking for some ethical guidance to implement. Education as a field revolves around laws and procedures of always doing the right thing. Also, making others adapt and learn to ethical practices and avoid cheating and taking advantage of others.
Importance of ethics
Ethics is a key element of any profession. Moral guidelines are always helpful to refer to whether practiced in education or the medical field where ethics might help physicians to reconcile the needs of patients. In many countries, it's common for lawyers to focus extensively on ethics and involve in conversations with professionals and peers to practice ethical conversations for the future.
Every field has its own challenges. Professionals can make mistakes and sometimes ignore details which may lead to minor and major issues in their career. Ethical guidelines are important to assist professionals and cope up with the changing environment to feel empowered while regulating themselves to suit the standards of their profession.
Educators can be confronted with various ethical issues where they may try their best to act ethically. There is a difference between an ethical person and a person who follows a code of ethics. Ethical behaviour is dependent on many factors and situations where a person is required to alter responses to be seen as ‘ethical’. Lines between personal and professional ethics are a blur to some extent which means what we perceive as ethical is not so clear-cut. It is better to avoid relationships in a professional role so that ethics has its role to play in situations as required. Most professionals address situations with social distance as a reflection of the existence of a code of ethics. For example, psychologists do not socialise with their clients outside therapy sessions to avoid personal connection with their patients and such separation must also exist in other professions. But as teachers are much closer to students it may be unavoidable at some level to let go of a comfortable environment with students but it is better to stay connected to your code of ethics to avoid unnecessary conflicts.
Some situations between a teacher and student which may cross ethical boundaries are;
- Teachers are expected to contribute towards students’ learning as well as their societal issues outside the classroom which may bring them to a comfortable and closer relationship. Not all teachers are aware and abide by the code of ethics and avoid biases in behaviour.
- Teachers not only deliver knowledge but interact and help learners achieve the level of knowledge required whether it exceeds time or not.
- Interpersonal relationships are embedded in teaching and learning which may be difficult to avoid.
Professional ethics may help teachers but it also varies with the level of responsibility and types of decisions. It is not always right or wrong but it starts with grey areas that exist in the countless interactions during the day-to-day work of teachers. It is always better to consider keeping a balance and considering the consequences of our actions to keep a balance and discuss issues in a non-judgmental informing the authorities and keeping it professional. Embracing these grey areas with ethical decision-making is good for students, teachers, institutions and communities.
Ethics and professionalising education
Structural changes are important to consider. Teachers should receive training on ethics and preparation programs involving ethical issues with mentors. They contribute to the professional development of teachers and help revisit principles of professional ethics while applying them to their classrooms.
Educators would avoid falling into the trap of misconduct and events that can jeopardise their career and image, but over time as the idea of professional ethics is implemented in the education field it has become as important as teaching and learning as content and pedagogy- and considering this its impact would be transformative. (Hutchings, 2016)