Ethics and the questions of values — what we consider important and why — are inseparable. The Centre for Ethics of the University of Tartu explores the topic of ethics and values both as a part of research and teaching activities and as a part of the wider aim to contribute to the development of the Estonian society as it reflects upon the theme of ethics and values.
In the sphere of values development our primary aims are:
- To encourage the discussion and formation of a shared understanding about the values the examination and application of which could enable us to address the burning issues in the Estonian society. Some examples of these problems are weak social cohesion, low civic participation, the onslaught of individualistic and consumerist mentality and hedonistic lifestyle but also the lack of patriotism, low respect towards human life, negative population growth and the spread of violence. In case of these issues moral and social values are the primary object of examination.
- To close the gap between the rhetorical declarations about values and the actual choices in the sphere of values so that our wishes concerning the development of society could become true. Simply making a list of important values is not sufficient, as the ability to recognise these values in the situations of daily life and the habit to take them into account when making decisions in practice are also necessary.
- To enable the new generation to address the societal issues by helping young people to recognise and overcome the problematic attitudes in the sphere of values. One’s values, as the basis of one’s personality, mostly develop during childhood and adolescence; for an adult, value judgements are usually fixed in a more rigid way. Accordingly, in the long run it is most expedient to focus on the educational system, schools and preschools.
- To support the values education of children and adolescents in preschools and schools, so that each of them could develop in the educational environment that supports integral personal development, formation of a clear understanding of one’s values and of the ability to cooperate successfully in society. It is important to give everyone the ability to reflect continuously upon one’s values in the context of daily life and to examine one’s actions and their basis.
- To encourage the society as a whole to support preschools and schools so that all parties in the society would recognise and help to realise the possibilities for addressing societal issues that education can offer. As these issues concern the entire society, it is necessary to involve the public and private sectors and NGOs in the formal educational system.
In order to advance towards these aims, in 2009 the Estonian Ministry of Education and Research approved the national programme “Values Development in Estonian Society 2009–2013”; the programme was subsequently renewed for the years 2015-2020.