What is the problem we are addressing?
Imagine a generation who can navigate the ethical dilemmas that face scientists, leaders, journalists, teachers, community members and all of us on a daily basis with ease. Imagine a world where ethics is a foundation on which all other domains and careers are constructed. That is the purpose of the Ethics curriculum at Qatar Academy Al Wakra, to provide students with a tool box to face the challenges of the world from an ethical perspective, and they will be better for it.
What is our solution?
From preschool to grade 10 students at Qatar Academy Al Wakra engage in four experiences each year in the areas of Honesty, Perseverance, Mindfulness and Being Humble. These experiences are carefully crafted to immerse students in discussions, projects and creative learning journeys to dissect each ethic in depth from different perspectives.
The Ethics Curriculum is a set of four books, laid out in a scope and sequence that captures the continuum of objectives and experiences for each of the four ethics from preschool to grade 10. While the Ethics curriculum projects are taught/facilitated by a delegated teacher for each grade level, all teachers also integrate Ethics seamlessly and authentically into their subject areas. ALL QAW teachers are regularly trained on the Ethics curriculum and supported to weave it in their lesson plans. In primary school, the Ethics curriculum is written into the Primary Years Program of Inquiry as the PSPE (Personal, Social and Physical Education) strand. Similarly in secondary school teachers include Ethics in their lesson planning and subject specific curriculum. This stems from our belief that we do not teach any subject apart from its ethical component.
At the end of each unit of study the whole school celebrates together, students display an exhibition of their projects, assemblies are held to showcase plays and speeches by students around the ethics unit and students dress up in outfits that reflect their understanding of the Ethics curriculum. The festive atmosphere at the end of each unit of ethics leaves a lasting feeling of happiness and pride in our students where they begin to associate being ethical with positivity, it is cool to be ethical!
In summary, the Ethics Curriculum is based on the students’ culture and experiences, it is facilitated by one teacher at each grade level, yet integrated by all teachers across all subjects. The students take a deep dive into each ethic for two months. The school picks a date where each ethic is celebrated across the whole school where students display and celebrate thier learning.
The Stallion Ambassadors and Student Council are among several programs where student leaders are role models of ethics. QAW Ambassadors across Grade 1 to High School work on team building activities, meeting once a month to brainstorm and develop ideas to provide support to their peers and/or new students with positive solutions or support. This has helped reduce behavior challenges across the school. In addition, it promotes students to take on leadership responsibilities and get involved in supporting their school community in different ways such as student orientation, events and distance learning tips during the COVID-19 lockdown. Students feel proud and enjoy being Ambassadors and more students ask to join or look forward to joining the following academic year.
An overview of our impact
The Ethics curriculum was developed internally and was based on the needs of our students through our experiences with them on a daily basis. A team that included teachers, parents and administrators, worked over a course of one school year, to develop the written curriculum and the program. Most importantly, the Ethics curriculum is written in a manner that draws on student input, on our students own culture and their experiences. We chose not to bring a ready-made program that our students may or may not be able to relate to. It was important for us to ensure this curriculum is closely tied to our community, the traditions and culture of our students. We launched the program in August 2016 the same year that Her Highness Shk. Moza launched the Akhlaquna Award, it was a great coincidence that gave us a boost and inspired us to continue our efforts, focus on the education of ethics as a core component to our program.
The impact of having Stallion Ambassadors is that students not only enjoy the leadership responsibility, but they learn and develop lifelong learning skills which will help them become competent and proud citizens of their country with prospects of professional careers. These skills help them to communicate with others locally and internationally. For instance, an Ambassador learns that their position is one that requires a degree of humbleness and that while it is an honor and a privilege to be selected, it comes with a moral and ethical obligation to serve rather than to be served. Because Ambassadors are usually top tier students, they sometimes find it frustrating that their peers aren’t as enthusiastic about an idea as they are, thus they learn the value of perseverance. These are two of the pillars of the Ethics Program and they help provide a stable foundation for the Stallion Ambassadors.
Examples of implementation
- Through their journey in learning about Honesty from preschool to grade 10, students in one grade level may learn about the dilemma of telling the truth at the detriment of their best friend getting in trouble or their parents being disappointed. Imagine the conversations that take place and the projects that the students create over two months to study such a dilemma and add to their ethics toolbox. While in another grade level, they are discussing the dilemma of how to undo the harm that resulted from being dishonest (In other words, how to tell the truth after telling an untruth/lie). How often are we as adults in such situations and have had to learn the hard way and many in this world don’t learn it at all. We strongly believe that building a deeply rooted ethical foundation is as important as building a strong numeracy and literacy foundation. At QAW, we believe strongly that we can’t have one without the other.
- The Ethics curriculum is a program by which everything that we do with students on a social emotional level connects, counseling, teaching ethics, discipline and behavior, character development etc... The Ethics curriculum provides us with a common language by which we can have difficult conversations with our students. For example, when students are in a situation where they are often tardy or absent, we can draw from the many examples and experiences they had in their Perseverance unit to help them resolve this issue.
- It is very nice to be able to have conversations with students about dilemmas that even adults struggle with yet our students know the answers to. We did a debate one day at QAW as one of the projects in grade 10 where a panel of students debated on stage with a panel of parents the difficulties of transparency about homework, grades etc… The audience joined in and it was a phenomenal success.
What are our future goals?
The program has been successful each year and students are responsible for supporting their peers and problem solving in positive ways. The future goals with the Ethics program is to graduate students who will be ethical leaders and members of their communities to make a positive impact and bring change in the world.