One of the main aims when developing the Estonian national curriculum for general education schools was to achieve coherence between the general part and the programmes for particular subjects. On the one hand, it is important to describe the general aims in the sphere of values clearly and fully; on the other hand, it is equally important that in the programmes for particular subjects these value principles are presented in connection with the content of these subjects. In order to achieve this dual aim, the Centre for Ethics worked in close cooperation with the Centre for Educational Research and Curriculum Development at the University of Tartu, didactics specialists of particular subjects, teachers and experts from the Ministry of Education and Research.
Formulation of the aims in the general part
Discussions with the groups working on the programmes of particular subjects showed that there was a great need to work out in detail the formulation of the general part of the curriculum. The work to address this need resulted in the formulation of the aims and underlying values of the curriculum by prof. Margit Sutrop and prof. Marju Lauristin. In the formulation of the aims for both basic and upper secondary schools, the role of values education was stressed in addition to the educational function of school. The ultimate aim of education is to give students the ability to realise themselves fully in various life roles: in family, at work and in community. The realisation of this aim means both each person’s personal happiness and a successfully functioning cohesive society; formation of suitable attitudes and judgements in the sphere of values is the necessary basis for both. It is necessary to support in equal measure students’ psychological, physical, moral, social and emotional development.
Basic school supports the formation of basic attitudes in the sphere of values; it is here that the basis for self-determination as a self-aware person and a member of a family, nation and society is created and the ability to understand value judgements that underlie one’s actions and to feel responsibility for their consequences is developed. The main educational and character development aim of upper secondary school is to help students to acquire knowledge, skills and attitudes in the sphere of values allowing them to choose an occupation that conforms to their interests and abilities, and to continue their education without obstacles.
Values in the programmes for particular subjects
In order to understand the relations between values and particular subjects more clearly, we organised a series of seminars with all groups working on the programmes for particular subjects in 2009. In order to provide a more specific starting point for the discussion, we analysed and gave feedback to the existing preliminary versions of the programmes so that afterwards we could discuss with the experts how to give a more definite form to the aspects of the programmes that are related to values.
This work resulted in the general guidelines for both basic and upper secondary schools and a series of subject-specific materials that give recommendations for discussing values in the context of different subjects. These materials can be taken into account when updating current programmes for particular subjects; they can also support the future development of the programmes.