удк 37.018.2


The problems of Values Education in Primary School of Latvia


 Ojārs Rode,

Elfrīda Krastiņa



The problem of the present research is related to the growing discrepancy between the demands for values education set in the National Standard of basic education and the actual situation observed at schools.

Keywords: values education, attitude towards learning mathematics, self-assessment.


Values education in the normative documents on general education


Cabinet of Ministers of the Republic of Latvia has adopted the standpoints of education development until 2013 (1). This document lays the base for the entire national education system. According to it, the major problems faced by basic education are as follows: insufficient knowledge in mathematics and natural science; insufficient provision of values education etc.

                To solve the above-mentioned problems, one of the aims of education is the necessity to improve the quality of the general knowledge and acquisition of values education and life skills of learners. This is meant to be achieved in primary school by the following actions:

1.       Raising the efficiency of the process of education at the stage of primary education.

2.       Implementation of values education in education establishments in cooperation with learners’ parents (family) etc.

Analyzing this document, we arrive at the conclusion that problems in values education, mathematics and natural science have been adequately assessed and certain suggestions are put forth for their solution. Each year about 60 million lats are planned for dealing with problems in education. As concerns values education, the only position directly related to it is allotted only 3 thousand lats.

How does values education appear in the normative documents of general education (2)?

The following objectives of basic education are set in the standard (article 2):

to facilitate the learner’s harmonious formation and development; to cultivate responsible attitude of the learner towards him/herself, family, community, surrounding environment, and state etc.

All of the above-mentioned points are in line with a harmonious personality development. The first and the last points (out of 7) of basic education tasks emphasize the necessity of forming the notion and understanding about the main natural, social, and sustainable development processes, moral and ethical values as well as cultivating communication and cooperation skills, i.e. values education.

Rules of the Cabinet of Ministers concerning the national standard of basic education academic subject standards define the objectives and tasks set for each academic subject. The objective of the academic subject of mathematics (3) is as follows: to acquire skills of performing actions with real numbers, use correspondences and analytical methods, study geometrical figures of plane and their characteristics, develop spatial notions; to acquire skills of investigation and performance of practical tasks by using mathematical models, obtaining, organizing, analyzing data and predicting the outcome etc.

As we can see, the balance found in the objective of basic education is lost here – the tasks set to the subject of mathematics no longer emphasize values education.

Analysis of normative documents indicates that values education is left on teachers’ consciousness in the form of suggestions. The content of mathematics as prescribed in the standard is broad and complicated. Even if the teachers consider values education significant and are willing to address it, this aim cannot be achieved because of the lack of time – the standard does not envisage it.

Consequently, a discrepancy is confirmed between the basic standpoints of education development and the objectives of basic education on the one hand, and the objective, tasks, compulsory content of the subject of mathematics and instruments fit for values education on the other. Its significance is not emphasised; consequently, no place or time, or ways and control mechanisms for values education are envisaged.


Pedagogical and psychological aspects of values education in learning mathematics


                Attempts to motivate learners for studying mathematics are described in numerous publications. Practicing teachers advise to motivate learners for learning mathematics (9) and execute values education by consolidating the bond between learning and practical life, by including in the tasks of mathematics texts on work, professions, sports, history and patriotic topics; reveal the beauty of mathematical elements etc.         A methodologically similar suggestion concerning the contemporary lesson of mathematics is expressed by the authors of the idea of humanizing mathematics (6). They search for the bond between mathematics and the culture of the humanities.            

Literature also presents the notion of “naturalizing learning” (9), which means learning differentiation in correspondence with the individual’s nature. It is differentiation not just according to the degree of complexity or academic subject, but the one that takes into consideration individually psycho-physiological peculiarities, e.g. asymmetry of brain hemispheres, age and gender peculiarities.

Ignoring the individual peculiarities of learners does not motivate, this is the reason of poor academic performance of learners and, according to Sirotyuk, causes stress for learners that may result in health problems.

                Person’s temperament is considered a significant factor in learning organization (7).

                Research in synergy is concordant with Maslow’s (5) and  Gebser (4) idea of “self-actualization” as the sense of human life. None of the external forces is comparable to that which has been placed within the human on the level of instincts. Inhibiting the instinct of self-actualization subdues the necessity of self-expression within one’s own personal sense of life, which is vitally important for the human. In such cases, we cannot expect internally motivated learning. .

                Analysis of literature reveals the ideas of researchers and practicing teachers that values education in the subject of mathematics must begin with perceiving the learner as a whole with all his/her talents and “shortcomings”. Values education is not merely a study of the good or bad. It is also an instrument for seeking the learner’s self and an indispensable factor for intrinsically motivated self-development. From this perspective, the normative documents of basic education ought to balance the learning of mathematics and values education – values education should become a priority.


Evaluation of learners’ attitude towards academic subjects


Our aim was to determine learners’ attitude towards sciences, identify their motivation and establish a connection between teacher-learner relationship. To reach these aims, several pilot studies were conducted in various basic schools, which included polling of teachers and learners. In the first polling, learners were asked to answer the following questions: in which academic subject you are the least successful (have the lowest grades) and why and what do you want/ don’t want to become and why.

Evaluating the poor academic performance of learners in particular subjects, replies from 155 graduates were obtained. The worst grades were in mathematics (Figure 1), then in foreign language and natural science. Approximately 27% of learners relate their poor academic performance to the subject of mathematics because they were not motivated to study it – they simply “did not like, were not interested” in this subject. Learners describe their lack of motivation in other subjects they failed in in a similar way. The fact that learners are well able to distinguish between their interests is confirmed by the great number of professions they consider choosing at a given time – 57. They mention such professions as carpenter, architect, motor engineer, professional athlete, doctor, journalist, cook and even aircraft pilot. Only 3 learners (~0.02%) mention the teacher’s profession – sports or domestic science teacher. 2 respondents are planning to work in the sphere of natural sciences.

Figure 1: Nicknames of the teachers of academic subjects and learners’ poor academic performance


A pilot study was conducted to determine the character of relationship among teachers and learners. The latter were therefore asked what nicknames they had given their teachers. The nickname polling was chosen because we hoped we might thus obtain a direct indication as to which teachers and, consequently, subjects evoke the greatest emotional response in learners and why. We also expected that the semantics of the nicknames would reveal learners’ attitude towards teachers.

Nicknames were provided by 369 respondents. From all nicknames, 26% were abusive, 2% - respectful, the rest may be regarded as neutral yet unflattering.

Distribution of failures and lowest grades for academic subjects matches the distribution of nicknames for teachers of these subjects, i.e. teachers of mathematics, languages and natural science receive the biggest number of nicknames. Other academic subjects that are relatively much easier and are not related to active, lengthy and hard work, as is the case with mathematics , do not disturb learners so much. As seen from the first polling, the main cause of failure is that learners were doing something they had not wanted to do and were in fact forced to do it. In child’s opinion, the “forcer” is no one other than the teacher of the particular subject. Attitude towards the forcer is revealed in the special denotations – nicknames. On some occasions, this peculiar kind of protest escalates so much that it turns into open disrespect (the above-mentioned 26%).


The research testifies to the low prestige of the teacher’s, especially the mathematics teacher’s, profession and of the natural science in general. A very significant statement of this pilot research was the fact that learners’ interests are little respected in organizing the process of learning, which might be the main reason for the negative relationship between teachers and learners.


Teachers’ opinion on the causes of failures


To establish if the negative attitude and disrespect identified in the first research stage only pertain to the teachers of science and to examine the causes of failure from the teachers’ standpoint, polling of teachers of various subjects in basic school was conducted in the second research stage. Teachers’ opinion was investigated in 30 schools. Teachers were asked to express their concern. Overall, 49 teachers responded by expressing concern over diverse issues affecting the quality of education, mounting up to 225 in number.

                Teachers’ concerns were divided into six big groups: those related to learners’ action, content of learning, process of learning, family, organisation of learning and community.

                The research reveals that the majority of teachers are concerned with the lack of motivation among learners – children do not see the necessity for learning, are poorly disciplined, permissive, have communication problems, even nihilism and intolerance is sometimes observed as well as low values orientation. As to the content of learning, teachers are mostly concerned with ill-balanced normative documents causing overburden in academic programmes (incongruence between the volume of the content of learning and the time allotted to learning), lack of conformity among programmes, poor quality of teaching materials, unreasoned school reform, etc. 

                Concern about family is chiefly related to the lack of interest on the part of parents, broken families, low income of families and the fact that parents do not participate in child’s upbringing.   

Greatest problems in the process of learning are related to the non-compliance of teaching materials to the standard of academic subjects, lack of materials, programme joining and the big number of learners in class – all these issues are in fact caused by the recent school reform. The concern expressed in relation to processes in community refers to lack of stability, insecurity about future, impact of multimedia, etc. Problems with the organization of learning are related to the distrust of school administration towards teachers (control, documentation), joined classes, working conditions – the environment.

Firstly, it was established that negative attitude was perceived not only by math teachers – it is a general tendency. It might mean that some of the learners feel they are being “forced” in other disciplines as well.  

Secondly, the character of relationship with and attitudes towards teachers as determined by the teachers’ polling correspond with the findings from the learners’ polling.

Thirdly, the conversations with the teachers were characterised by anxiety – the teachers are under stress even when they are not directly involved in teaching, but are only thinking about it. Teachers live in stress because their profession makes them assume responsibility, become involved in helping people become good and wise community members. The result, however, is unexpected. Teachers perceive the sources of problems mainly in the external factors and, possibly, it is really so because these factors, in a way, determine teachers’ possible actions and, which is particularly relevant to the present study, correspond to the results of the analysis of normative documents.

Admittedly, the community in general and the persons employed in educational institutions try to do their best; yet, the unanswered question remains – what motivates them to do it the way they are doing it now.






·         The present research supposes that one of the reasons for learners’ negative attitude might be the lack of balance between community interests and those of individuals. The fact that almost no one at school is interested in learner’s dreams, interests and wishes may be experienced by the learner as an offence and disrespect for his/her personality, which may be assumed as a norm in human relations. No doubt, in a situation when learner’s personality is ignored, values education cannot be successful and there should be no surprise at the growing nihilism. Essential improvement could be expected from individualization of learning. This cannot be done under the conditions of large size groups of learners and the discrepancy between the volume of the content of learning and the time allotted for its mastering.

·         Values education should be a priority at school. Only education that is based on stable, sustainable, positive values will not contradict the interests of individuals and society. That is why values education must be attributed a certain place and time in the standards.       




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