Learning virtues and values leads to better academic performance

The skills or personality traits can be learned, acquired, developed and changed

UNICEF Montenegro
From left to right: Benjamin Perks, UNICEF Montenegro Representative, Radovan Popovic, director of the Bureau for Education Services, and Andja Backovic from the Bureau for Education Services
UNICEF Montenegro / Duško Miljanić / 2015

23 June 2015

PODGORICA, 23 June 2015 – Numerous scientific studies clearly point to a correlation between personality traits and overall success in school, career and life outcomes. Despite the traditional views about them being innate, the skills or personality traits can be learned, acquired, developed and changed.

For this reason, the Bureau for Education Services of Montenegro, with the support of UNICEF, has launched an initiative with the aim of encouraging the development of values, virtues and skills among montenegrin students that underpin academic success, quality of future life and career. This initiative is based on the educational role of schools, and will be based on the most advanced knowledge in the area of character development and the everyday process of acquiring knowledge and skills in schools.

Therefore, the program reinforces the ethos of school and extends forms of support to students, thus raising the level of quality of schools in general. 

Radovan Popovic, director of the Bureau for Education Services, said that Montenegrin system of education is slowly getting back to some values which were forgotten over the years. 

“The need to numerically represent the success of students has overpowered something that I consider more important - the pedagogical role of school. Projects like this one open the door to some inevitable values to which we have to return,” Popovic said.

UNICEF Representative in Montenegro Benjamin Perks said that teachers have one of the most important jobs in a society, which additionally helps the society to develop and nurture the future of every individual citizen. 

“When we think about future generations, we do not know what will today’s six-year olds work when they enter the labour market in 15 years. It will probably be some job that does not even exist today. Also, we do not know what the life conditions will be, how difficult for them will be to buy a house, to feed their families, or to function in a society. It is therefore necessary,“ as Perks pointed out, "to do what we can do today - as the public sector and as educational community – and to provide children with the best knowledge possible and the skills and values that are necessary for them to develop their full potentials.“

Perks also emphasized that reform of the education sector needs to be based on a continous effort of science and pedagogy to keep up with changes and innovations, and provide the best knowledge in order to fulfill the imperative – to always serve in the best interest of children.

For this reason, Bureau for Education Services and UNICEF organized a two-day seminar on strenghtening the role of school in the personality development of students.

Numerous representatives of the Montenegrin educational system, local and international experts, had an inspiring and productive discussion on how to create a program that will enable students to learn and think about their behavior, decisions, moral dilemmas, feelings, virtues and values upon which they want to build their future, develop their moral integrity and have a clearer perspective in life.

It is important to point out that students themselves have a very clear vision about the important values and skills that should be encouraged by the school. Namely, the research conducted by the Bureau for Education Services in eight Montenegrin primary schools showed that students place the highest value on self-confidence, independence, tolerance, integrity, persistence, non-discrimination, responsibility, creativity and gratitude.

This seminar was also an opportunity to discuss the development of training programs for teachers in order to make them more sensitive - not only for cognitive development - but also for development of character and moral values in children. 

Experts Sandra Cooke and Aidan Thompson from Jubilee Center speak about character education
UNICEF Montenegro / Duško Miljanić / 2015
Experts Sandra Cooke and Aidan Thompson from Jubilee Center speak about character education

"Regarding the initiative we are developing with UNICEF, it is worth noting that we often think about teachers only as of trainers. We forget to see and to promote a teacher as someone who prepares a young person for life“, said Andja Backovic, project coordinator from the Bureau for Education Services.

During the two-day seminar, Sandra Cook and Aidan Thompson, representatives of the Jubilee Centre for Character and ​​Virtues of the University of Birmingham, talked about character education in the United Kingdom, the framework and modalities of implementation of character education, as well as support to teachers in developing the character of students.

Cook said that the character education is very important in helping children to develop into the well-rounded and complete persons, "because the education is not just a knowledge“. 

"We are glad to be here, in Montenegro, to discuss it with teachers, and to hear that the issues we face in the UK are very similar to those in Montenegro, so that we can learn from each other about the way we can help teachers to fulfill this very important role, and to teach young people to develop their character", Cook said.

Thompson was categorical that the virtues and values ​​can be learned, and optimistic that Montenegro can develop character education for which it will have the support of the University of Birmingham.

"We are not claiming that one can become a better person only by learning virtues and skills. But it is certainly a good start," he stressed.

For Ranka Bozovic, a school psychologist, the aim of this project is to help every participant in the educational process to change their values that have been neglected over time.

"To be honest, persistant, human, grateful, patient, gritty, courageous... It used to be part of the educational system, but it was lost due to the struggle for existence in the last 30 years“, said Bozovic.

"Along with it's educational function, there is a pedagogical function of school, which is not something we invented today. It is something that has always existed, something that we have always been aware of. What we now have at our disposal is a completely new experience in the field of psychology and pedagogy, which allows us to see this function in a new way. All this should lead to building of character and virtues, for the benefit of future generations ", a psychologist Radoje Cerovic believes.