In the Australian Curriculum, students develop ethical understanding as they identify and investigate the nature of ethical concepts, values and character traits, and understand how reasoning can assist ethical judgement. Ethical understanding involves students building a strong personal and socially oriented ethical outlook that helps them to manage context, conflict and uncertainty, and to develop an awareness of the influence that their values and behaviour have on others. It does this through fostering the development of ‘personal values and attributes such as honesty, resilience, empathy and respect for others’, and the capacity to act with ethical integrity, as outlined in the Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians (MCEETYA 2008, p. 9).
As cultural, social, environmental and technological changes transform the world, the demands placed on learners and education systems are changing. Technologies bring local and distant communities into classrooms, exposing students to knowledge and global concerns as never before. Complex issues require responses that take account of ethical considerations such as human rights and responsibilities, animal rights, environmental issues and global justice.
Building ethical understanding throughout all stages of schooling will assist students to engage with the more complex issues that they are likely to encounter in the future, and to navigate a world of competing values, rights, interests and norms.
Students learn to develop ethical understanding as they explore ethical issues and interactions with others, discuss ideas and learn to be accountable as members of a democratic community.
Processes of inquiring into ethical issues include giving reasons, being consistent, finding meanings and causes, and providing proof and evidence. Interrogating such concepts through authentic cases such as global warming, sustainable living and socioeconomic disparity can involve group and independent inquiry, critical and creative thinking, and cooperative teamwork, and can contribute to personal and social learning.
As students engage with the elements of Ethical Understanding in an integrated way, they learn to recognise the complexity of many ethical issues. They develop a capacity to make reasoned ethical judgements through the investigation of a range of questions drawn from varied contexts in the curriculum.
Ethical understanding This icon shows where Ethical Understanding has been identified in learning area content descriptions and elaborations.