The Mauritius Institute of Training and Development (MITD) case is hitting headlines since December 2012. Since then, it is becoming more and more the talk of educators at school and even in classroom where pupils are questioning their teachers about such a messy stuff. Hearing has been conducted, cases have been filed in court, PQs are being raised and some are calling for more forceful actions.What is then left to say and do? In fact, it is the first time since independence that educational leaders in Mauritius are confronted by external and internal challenges and expectations that make considerable demands on their time, expertise, energies and emotional wellbeing within a long held values-based school community. Unfortunately too many leaders, especially those in politics and the business world, have not lived up to our expectations in recent times.
How do we as educators address such challenges? Perhaps we should bring the reflection at the level of ethics and politics of education. Ethics refers to the moral behaviour of humans and how one should act. It is a set of concepts and principles that guide us in determining what behavior helps or harms. But ethics should not be limited only to individual responsibility; it does also refer to the very fabric of society and it implies a collective responsibility and accountability. A review of local newspapers, people’s voice on radio programmes and the Hansard of the National Assembly bear testimony that we are confronted with a very serious ethical issue in national politics and education. While as educators we may experience confusion, even frustration, in attempting to respond productively to these questions of the public, many of us feel used, even devalued by the current situation.
Today, the world of education is increasingly sensitive to the need for sound ethical and moral standards in how organizations are led and decisions made. It would seem to be an opportune time for our leaders, institutions and structures ensure that they are embedding high ethical and moral standards in their policies and practices. The recent lapses in the ethical and moral judgements as evidenced in some of our local affairs should rather heighten our awareness of the necessity of maintaining, promoting and defending high standards of ethical behaviour in our schools. Many in the educational community (heads of schools, teachers, pupils and parents) doubt the credibility, especially with regard to ethical and moral standards, of leaders of many of our public and private institutions. Numerous examples of leaders deliberately taking actions that lack ethical and moral content have led to a public culture of cynicism with regard to the people in key positions ( including educators) and our institutions in the Mauritian society.
As educators, we have a particular responsibility to ensure that students in their care receive the type of education and learning experiences that help transform their lives so that they can break the bonds imposed by forces for intense individualism. We must help our youth to better contribute, as responsible citizens, to the common good. Educators need to be socially as well as educationally responsible, in order to create the conditions within their schools that challenge students to see the bigger picture and to want to make a difference in their own lives and in the larger community. It is there that educational leaders have also a public role to play as transformatory intellectuals.
And yet I believe that there is some good news. For a variety of reasons, there is a growing public chorus demanding ethical and authentic leadership. These demands are raising the ethical and moral bar for contemporary leaders in Mauritius. Paradoxically, the future is looking somewhat brighter.
Head of Department of Applied Pedagogy
Institut Cardinal Jean Margéot
27 May 2013