What does it take to win a gold award for nurturing values and ethics at QS Reimagine Education?

QS Reimagine Education Awards is returning on 11-13 December 2023, taking place in Abu Dhabi and online – recognising educational innovators in their achievements across the globe.

The award submissions are now open.

In the lead up to the event, we spoke with Professor Tom Harrison, Deputy Director at Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues at the University of Birmingham, to understand more about last years award-winning framework and their hopes for the future having won funding for their project.

Congratulations to the Jubilee Centre at the University of Birmingham for being awarded the gold prize for the Nurturing Values and Ethics award at QS Reimagine Education 2022. Can you explain what the Centre’s Framework for Character Education in Schools is in your own words?

“Flourishing, as the aim of education, is currently prioritised by many governments around the world, as well as organisations such as the OECD and the UN. This renewed focus among education spaces on flourishing was inspired by a general agreement that schools and university education were not successful in preparing children and adolescents to thrive in the various roles they will play in the future; as employees, parents, neighbours and citizens.

However, what it means to flourish, and how education should contribute to individual and societal flourishing, is poorly understood in academia, policy and practice. The Jubilee Centre’s Framework for Character Education in Schools works to solve this problem. It demonstrates how a universal and just approach to ‘education for character’ values, such as compassion, integrity, courage, social justice and resilience, can become a more explicit focus in all types of educational institutions.

Today, informed by the Framework, there has been a revigorated focus on values and ethical education in many schools and universities around the world. A character focused approach to values education has a secure theoretical (virtue ethics) basis that is now widely accepted. It has also informed many substantial global research collaborations on character education and human flourishing.”

The QS Reimagine Education Grand Jury said of the framework: “the pedagogical approach you created is innovative because, through its effective pedagogy, it is achieving a remarkable and scalable impact”. Could you tell us a little about the innovation and impact of the framework that is being celebrated with this win?

Meeting of the inaugural European Character Virtues Association (ECVA) in Birmingham to discuss the Framework.

“A key conviction underlying the existence of the Jubilee Centre at the University of Birmingham is that, while the values and virtues that make up good character can be learnt and taught, these have been largely neglected in schools and professions. It’s also a key conviction that, the more people exhibit good character and values, the healthier our society.

When the centre was founded, explicit, planned and reflective approaches to character education were non-existent in many schools, or viewed with suspicion. The Framework has sought to reclaim the language of character education and show how it’s possible to support children to become well rounded individuals through an explicit focus on values and ethics. The Framework was developed through extensive collaboration with schools, teacher, students and academics around the world with a focus on excellence in character education, and ensuring a robust, rigorous research and evidence-based approach that is objective and non-political. The Framework provides a practical guide to schools seeking to deliver outstanding character education provision. Subsequent empirical findings helped to determine how the Framework might be adapted to different educational contexts and which methods and practices of implementation might be most effective.

The Framework has had significant and measurable global impact on nurturing of values and ethics. Its impact includes underpinning substantial policy changes in the UK, acting as the benchmark by which US$70M+ of funding for values education has been awarded, informing the foundation of the first character education subject association and first master’s degree in character education and transforming practice of organisations including UNICEF, Varkey Foundation, WestPoint Military Academy and many others.

Professor Tom Harrison speaking about the Framework at the International Federation for Family Development (IFFD) International conference in London.

As part of your gold win, you were awarded US$25,000 (sponsored by Ajman University) for the Global Education Award. How do you hope this funding will advance your work to nurture values and ethics in an education environment?

“The award will enable us to continue to develop and disseminate the Framework – with the aim of increasing global conversations and about the importance of character for human flourishing. Our experience to date suggests that many of these conversations turn into meaningful collaborations and we expect the impact of the Framework to continue and increase over the next decade.

The Global Education Award will help the Centre to maintain its position as the one of the most respected research centres in the field of character and values, as well as expand our reach into new countries around the world, whilst ensuring a greater depth and breadth of impact.”

The ‘Nurturing Values and Ethics’ prize was awarded to “the programme or initiative that is nurturing values and ethics in an innovative, measurable and tangible fashion”. What advice would you give to other organisations and institutions hoping to make tangible and lasting impact in the field of values and ethics?

“A universal focus on character, ethics and human values is required if we are to address some of the biggest global challenges in the world today. We encourage organisations and institutions interested in enhancing individual and societal flourishing to reflect on how they ensure that character education is part of their core mission. For example, schools need to consider if they are emphasising character, alongside attainment, to prepare children for the tests of life, not just a life of examinations. Universities must put a focus on character, values and virtue ethics in the professional education they offer students studying all fields, including business, law, medicine etc.”

How did you and your team feel and/or react when they learnt the news of this win?

“We were absolutely delighted when we heard that the Jubilee Centre had won the global education award at QS Reimagine Education. It is a real honor that the importance and impact of the Framework has been recognised by such an esteemed global panel of judges. It was the perfect Christmas present!”

Could you be the next winner? Submissions for the QS Reimagine Education awards are now open.

Learn more

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