REFLECTION OF VALUES IN THE READER FOR PRIMARY

GRADES IN ESTONIA

Professor Leida Talts, Ph D, Tallinn Pedagogical University

 



Research on value esteems of students enables us to study the children's abilities to comprehend the world around them, their wishes to identify themselves and their aspirations for the future as for the present time (Karrby 1990, Laslett 1983, Talts 1994). Many have stressed a special need to study the children´s world of feelings and comprehension, which would enable them to participate actively at discovering their own "selves" and developing their capabilities. The former approach of grown ups, the ways of expression and meanings of values is being substituted by another aproach according to which children should he considered equal partners of communication and active subjects.

I have analysed the presently used reader for teaching the native language in grade 2 from the point of view of presented values. As I have carried out research on childrens´ values during different stages of history of the Estonian society (the latest research was "Values of children of Estonia and Nordic countries", completed in 1994) I was able to compare the ethic values presented in the mentioned reader with the needs and ideals of children.
All the school textbooks have born the spirit of their times, but the period of primary schooling offers, more than any other, opportunities to influence the development of a personality of a child and that´s why the school textbooks have a special role of developing value esteems.

The main aim of learning the native language at primary schools is to acquire reading skills and skills of self expression as well as development of interest in reading in general. In addition to the mentioned practical aims the acquisition of aesthetic and ethic values is of no less importance. Accordingly, the choice of study texts should correspond as adequately as possible with the needs and interests of children at a particular age group and be related to their previous knowledge, feelings and imaginations which would allow the teacher to lead the children at acquiring technical reading skills towards a broader comprehension of the world.

The main topics presented in the reader for the second grade are nature, work, human relations, family, home and homeland, and health

The greatest number of texts deal with human relations. Relations between people express best the values the authors of the reader have intended to convey. The aim of the typical story is probably positive: authors try to teach the children to be observative, to listen carefully and to express their own opinion at a suitable moment - but the implications of the text give a different message: there is no special need to express your opinion, because nobody needs it. And it is generally not wise to come out with one´s ideas in all possible situations. In the story "A new girl in the class" her deskmate tells the girl immediately about everything she can do and the newcomer answers: I can sit still in the lesson (p 20). And again it will very much depend on the teacher, whether to declare the answer of the newcomer absolutely correct and the questions of the deskmate irrelevant or try to find the opportunities. The conversation of the girls could be discussed in different ways, but at the end of the story there is the morale written in block letters - an Estonian folk wisdom: work when you have to work, talk when you have to talk; watch well, listen well and don´t talk too much.

Value esteems in the texts and in the everyday life of children nowadays

It is not possible to draw clear and measurable parallells, because the authors of the reader have tried to convey the main values of Estonian people to children and selected relevant themes for that. Those values are diligence, honesty, modesty etc. So the reader has been compiled from the standpoint of grown ups on what should be necessary for development of the children´s world of thinking and feeling, whereas the research has ascertained the real situation.

The most prestigious professions for young Estonian pupils are those of teachers and doctors, also actors and singers (girls) and policeman (boys). Reasonably popular are jobs related to technology or machinery or growing plants and animals. *)

At junior school age the main values of life will be conveyed to the children by the people who are important for them. In the first grade those are parents, teachers, famous sportsmen and fiImstars *). When the children get older they start to analyse their own "self" deeper and they try to find more often what is valuable in themselves. Comparison of the research data and the texts in the reader shows that the circle of idols is limited to the family and children themselves. Values of children's behaviour and working capabilities have brought to the foreground correctness, helpfulness, docility and diligence. Children´s own opinions and different views from adults at analysing different situations have been discouraged.

They value especially the opportunity to live at a safe and well provided home now, and they hope to have a nice family of their own in the future; they also want to defend their native land, work well and travel.

The most essential needs of achievement the children have are also reflected in the texts of the reader. In addition to the above mentioned also some other needs were represented in the research: to earn much money, to help people, to become famous and to be able to speak many foreign languages. Children´s dream to travel widely has not been reflected in the reader; the authors have rather tried to keep to reality and avoid dreams or ideals.

Concluslon

Summing it up we have to stress that the reader of the second grade deals with many essential ethical values such as the attitude to work, nature and other people (peers). But when comparing those values expressed in the texts with real needs and values the children have developed from their everyday reality, we have to admit that the reader does not cover adequately the fields of interest of a contemporary child.

Several implications and accentuations in the texts show a tendency to under-estimate the capabilities of children to comprehend the world around them. With regained independence in Estonia we have also reached a new level of quality in our self-perception.

The rapid changes, new opportunities and information influence primarily the world outlook of children, because due to their age they do not have long experience to rely on as grown up people do when taking decisions about economic, cultural and social events or conditions of previous development.

The basic values presented in the reader are correct and evergreen, and rely on positive life experience of our people. At the same time we cannot keep anything static or unchanging as we have to keep up with development and increasing intensive exchange of information. The times when grown ups were the main and only teachers for children who knew what was best for them are over. Adults also need fresh attitudes and approaches towards life as well as new experience in order to learn a lesson for themselves.

*) In the Nordic countries filmstars, singers and sportsmen took the first place

References:
Andresen, L 1993: Eesti aabits reformatsiooniast iseseisvusajani. Tallinn 'Koolibri"
Kivi, L, Roosleht, M. 1991: Emakeel II, parandatud trükk. Tallinn "Valgus"
Karrby, G 1990: Children's concepts of their own play
Laherand, M-L 1996: Mäng töö ja öppimine eesti aabisates. Kooliuuenduslane 2-3
Laslett, P 1983: The World we have Lost - Further Explored. 3:d ed. London, Methuen
Talts L 1994: Values of Children of Estonia and Nordic countries. Final report to Central European University. Praha.

 

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