Ethics classes for students at schools

DISCUSSING IDEAS: Students at West Pennent Hills Primary School take part in an ethics class. More than 450 schools across the states have introduced ethics classes.
DISCUSSING IDEAS: Students at West Pennent Hills Primary School take part in an ethics class. More than 450 schools across the states have introduced ethics classes.

Should we be teaching our primary school students about ethics?

Not-for-profit organisation Primary Ethics says no schools in the Tamworth or Gunnedah region offers ethics classes, but it’s keen to change that.

Primary Ethics is the only provider of ethics classes in the state and has formed an aged-appropriate curriculum that has been approved by the Department of Education, which has already been picked up by more than 450 schools. 

The classes are offered as an alternative to scripture – at the moment, student that opted out of scripture are put in a “meaningful activity class” or supervised care, which includes activities such as watching movies, reading and drawing.

Primary Ethics’ Heidi McElnea said the program was taught by volunteers, which the organisation trains for free.

“We would love to run an ethics teacher training session in the Tamworth area,” Ms McElnea said.

“Ideally, we’d like parents from two or three schools in the area who are willing to volunteer to make ethics classes an option at their child’s school.

“Grandparents, retirees and other community-minded locals often also are interested in becoming ethics teachers.”

Ms McElnea said the ethics classes helped young people learn essential life skills such as critical thinking, reasoning and respectful discussion to help them make better decisions.

“It helps children think things through and make decisions on good reasons, rather than habit or peer pressure,” she said.

The curriculum covers 79 topics. Kindergarten students discuss questions such as “Is it ever OK to change your mind?” and “Why might we sometimes be afraid to ask questions?”, while Years 5 and 6 students tackle more complex issues, such as “Is it ever fair to treat people (or groups) unequally?” and “Human rights: where do rights come from and how are they justified?”.

Ethics teachers volunteer for around an hour a week. There are other volunteering roles, such as ethics coordinators, who liaise with the school.

Interested schools and volunteers can visited primaryethics.com.au for more information or call 8068 7752.