Doing the right thing: Teaching the right thing

It’s rankings period. Two weeks ago QS published their rankings for the year and today many of us look forward to the Times Higher Education ones. Despite the debates around the methodology and comparability amongst the institutions, the truth is we all go through them and feel a sense of pride if the University or College we study or work for appears at the top. Naturally, they become a measure of quality of the education they offer. Which many times also comes at a high cost…but that is another matter. And it is true; good reputation attracts good professors and management staff, good professors attract good students, good students attract good professors and high-profile companies that want to hire them, support the school etc.
Bottom line is; rankings will continue to exist, because the fulfill a need of the market. Their methodologies may differ, but as a tool they will continue to play a strong role to our decisions, policy makers and global market, as the investment that goes into higher education (private and public, physical and online) has grown significantly over the last decade.

Going into the topic of this blog though and the point of putting ethics in the agenda of Education. I read this brilliant post today, which captures very well the discussion and the main questions that trouble us:

1. Is Education’s role to also develop ethical leadership?

2. Can we teach Ethics?

3. How can one measure the learning outcomes of such an effort?

4. Who and how can “teach” Ethics? Are these a few, maybe handful global values of conduct that are considered bad/unethical seeing under any cultural, religious,political lens?
and finally…

5. What are the expectations that education institutions (especially HEI) should have towards their alumni and their ethical behavior after they graduate?

I will jump over Q 1 & 2 to 3-5 as I think that the debate and the argumentation should focus on HOW and WHO, as this is where many colleagues stumble upon. So, last semester I did a paper for my MSc, around how Business Schools in Greece have integrated Ethics in their curricula. From some research done at home and internationally, the results were kind of moderate;

– Yes, schools pay attention to the topic nowadays more than 10 or 15 years ago. The recent financial crisis, questions that have to do with Biology and the human genome, as well as intervention to nature have given food for many questions to be raised.

– Yes, in most modern schools, Ethics is a separate part of the curriculum as well as integrated in other modules, too. However, in many cases it is seen as something related to Social Responsibility. In some cases it relates to Leadership, Values expression and the broad notion of Sustainability.

– No, measuring learning outcomes on this particular point is not as straight forward as it seems. It is not a question of applying a mathematical theorem or a statistical model. How do you measure whether the student has actually, really, authentically and deeply learned the curriculum? In what time period? In which conditions do you measure?

– No, we are not there yet. The above article of THE, as well as the reality of our world shows that our Education system has serious problems and challenges on that front.

The good news is that teaching methodologies which focus a lot on simulation of real life examples, case studies, role modeling of business leaders who have exhibited moral ability as well as a shift of focus from teaching Ethics to empowering young leaders to voice their values, has potentially brought a larger effect to the students and pupils.

On Q 5, the question still stands; should schools revoke their MBA, Masters etc from graduates that are convicted, found to have exhibited unethical behavior, based on the assumption of course that the Schools stand for a set of values and acting ethically, transparently, sustainably is one of them…

Food for thought and discussion.


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