02.05.2018 | Blogpost

Education for integrity: our youth, our future

Carissa Munro
Carissa Munro is a Junior Policy Analyst in the OECD’s Directorate for Public Governance, working on the whole-of-society integrity framework.*
Facilitating our students’ learning about integrity in school can help empower the next generation to prevent corruption. Indeed, it is through education for public integrity that the behavioural norms and values for society that challenge corruption and support integrity are passed on.

To support countries in educating young people about the benefits of public integrity and reducing corruption, the OECD recently published the resource book Education for Integrity: Teaching on Anti-Corruption, Values and the Rule of Law. Drawing on existing good practices from around the world, Education for Integrity provides a comprehensive framework for implementing education for public integrity in the school system and in the classroom. It also contains useful sample lessons and tasks on anti-corruption, values formation and understanding the rule of law. Several key principles that can be found throughout the resource book include:

Play the long game

There are many “quick fixes” in the anti-corruption world, but education is not one of them. By its nature, education is a slow process, a reality that is reflected in the way we establish our education systems. However, a multitude of factors, ranging from limited budget, failure to involve the education ministry, and short-term policy focus, can lead policy makers to choose short-term solutions, such as an anti-corruption app or an Anti-Corruption Day, as the core policy response to engage youth. While these solutions clearly have merit and should not be disregarded, they should be seen as tools in a broader, more comprehensive educational programme. Education for Integrity emphasises the necessity of mobilising the key stakeholders to incorporate education for integrity into the school system. 

Prepare the evidence base

The full effects of education for public integrity on behaviour change will not be visible immediately. However, systematically collecting and analysing data to assess the short, medium and long term impact is critical. As such, Education for Integrity points to several options that could be used to evaluate the effect of education for public integrity. These options include: regression discontinuity analysis approaches, qualitative and participatory research methods, and using behavioural insights to assess the effects of the education programme on short-term behaviour change.

Support the teachers

Corruption can be a difficult topic to discuss. Teachers not only need the skills to handle these tough conversations, but also the ability to let their students know that their voices matter. Moreover, modelling integrity behaviour such as fairness, openness and respect, helps teachers demonstrate to their students what integrity looks like in practice. Education for Integrity emphasises the role of teacher-training programmes to mobilise educators. It also contains practical tips for teachers on developing lesson plans and tasks, selecting supporting materials, ensuring impact and relevance for students and managing interactive group tasks.

Leverage cross-curricular approaches to involve all students

There is an assumption that primary school students cannot handle topics like corruption and the rule of law. There is some merit to this, for example, as students who are still learning the basics of mathematics cannot be expected to debate the impacts of bribery on economic growth. But they can talk about the core values that underpin ethical behaviour: integrity, fairness, honesty. Indeed, teachers can use the language class to read stories that teach students the value of doing the right thing when no one is watching. Teachers can use the science lesson to discuss why being honest about the findings of an experiment is important to uphold the integrity of evidence. The proposed public integrity learning outcomes and sample lesson plans in Education for Integrity can integrated across subjects, giving educators the opportunity to teach about integrity and anti-corruption in a variety of contexts. 

Where do we go from here?

An assumption exists that only the “really corrupt” countries need to educate about integrity, but this is an issue for everyone. Under the OECD Recommendation on Public Integrity, all OECD member countries are called on to empower their young people to stand up for integrity, and challenge corruption and unethical behaviour. Going forward, the OECD will continue supporting countries to educate for integrity, developing the tools and sharing the good practices to enable policy makers, educators and youth to be integrity champions.

*Across a range of country projects, Carissa Munro provides technical guidance to mobilise society in the fight against corruption through educating for integrity, awareness raising and private sector initiatives.

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