Fuentes, J. L. (Ed.) (2019). Ética para la excelencia educativa [Ethics for educational excellence]. (Ana García-Bravo)


Fuentes, J. L. (Ed.) (2019).
Ética para la excelencia educativa [Ethics for educational excellence].
Madrid: Síntesis. 198 pp.

The book Ética para la excelencia educativa, recently published by Juan Luis Fuentes, María Dolores Conesa Lareo, Juan García-Gutiérrez, Ernesto López-Gómez, and Marta Ruiz-Corbella, considers the idea of education as an art in which all of its dimensions must be taken into consideration to achieve a continuous, free, and morally good process along with other questions of current interest.

From an ethical perspective, this work considers: the application of philosophical notions to education; some of the most controversial topics, such as the use of new technologies; and classic questions regarding what education is, what it is for, and what the role of the educator is at present. In addition, it is worth noting that it pays attention to the great influence educators have on the lives of others, since their work requires a high degree of responsibility and commitment, something that at the same time makes it a pleasant, satisfying, and gratifying way of life.

The book is divided into ten chapters, starting with an analysis that considers questions such as the educational task and notions of goodness. In order to reach a complete understanding of the other chapters, it is necessary to distinguish between two types of good: absolute and relative. By so doing, we can understand the importance of directing education towards an absolute good (morally good actions) to achieve comprehensive human development. The last part of this chapter argues for the value of teaching competences and knowledge at the same level as teaching ethics in order to arrive at complete moral and pragmatic liberty.

The second chapter considers education as an art comprising a lifelong commitment and complete dedication, as well as the educators’ role which requires them to be not only simple transmitters of knowledge, but also valuable reference points for learning, that is to say, they provide encouragement that motivates every student towards the desire to learn. To do this requires the complete acquisition of certain attributes: honesty, authority (linked to goodwill), respect for difference, the ability to listen, and observation.

The third chapter considers three topics related to the status of educational work. The first matter distinguishes between education as a profession in which trained professionals perform an educational action, and education as a vocation understood as a service and a way of life that includes a great moral commitment. The second topic approaches education as a supportive profession that enables all learners to discover the best of themselves, so creating free and responsible citizens. And the third and final topic describes the professional identity of educators and their social and professional image as well as the factors shaping this.

Chapters four and five comprise a significant analysis of contemporary society and the different settings connected to education, including the virtual setting, which completely changes notions of  pace and time. These chapters focus on educational institutions and their necessary social responsibility, taking into account all of the elements this includes. Deontological codes are also analysed from their emergence to the present day, underlining how important it is to update them and extend them to all educators (people involved in education) and towards an autonomy of judgement (in accordance with the variety of situations). The reflections on the universalisation and globalisation that technology brings are also of interest, as they focus on its objectives in education to achieve human plenitude, making good use of these media. Finally, there is a reflection on what is valued by society as it centres more on the outcome than on processes, on increasing skills more than the effort to acquire them, attributing people a perfect character that is clearly unobtainable.

The next chapter continues with the reflection on technology, this time considering the acquisition of new skills. As such, it defines digital competence as a basic skill in which it is necessary to identify a level of use and a level of meaning (pp. 102-103) that at the same time interact with the concepts of internal good and external good. The role the educator must adopt in cyberspace is also analysed, remembering the principle of continuity in this context and its relationship with the idea of post-truth.

Chapter seven focusses on the quality of teachers and presents various reasons for which an educator must be regarded as a moral model (p. 122). These relate to their character traits and also accept education as a supportive profession in which an emotional connection with the student is created and they give great importance to leading by example. In addition, at the end of the chapter, various obstacles to considering the educator as a moral model and possible solutions for overcoming them are offered.

The implementation and characteristics of ethical learning are covered in chapter eight, where the need to develop this learning in an integrated way is noted. According to the authors, ethics can be found in every subject, and achieving a multidimensional education requires different dimensions, such as the cognitive, the behavioural, and the affective, to be combined. Finally, the possibilities of cultural learning in the promotion of ethical learning are considered.

The teaching of ethical behaviour is covered in chapter nine, which starts by defining education as a concept that influences and affects all spheres (personal, public, and professional) to achieve each individual’s full development. The moral dimension is emphasised as a process of building and teaching human beings’ technological skills and attitudes in relation to the current setting, in which we find a clear development of technologies. Constant analysis as well as making decisions and acting according to the situation one is in are needed to be able to achieve successful moral education, and this includes the constant interactions between the digital and physical worlds, linked to the needs of a multicultural and intercultural society. Therefore, education is vital in this scenario, as it acts as a guide and provides the knowledge and skills that enable human beings to be morally free. The authors also present strategies for and obstacles to putting moral education into practice, as well as the principal theories on which they are based (p. 158). The last section makes special reference to a recent moral learning model — service-learning — which is implemented in a wide variety of contexts, subjects, and activities. As it is set forth, all service-learning starts with a societal need, which is relieved by putting into practice the content students learn. This involves a concept of complete educational renovation where the knowledge acquired is applied to a real situation of need while at the same time achieving ethical and civic learning.

The last chapter considers the concept of ethical learning in greater depth, this time focussing on evaluation, which must be approached as a dynamic process aimed at complete educational development. The importance of using a wide range of strategies in which feedback is a key aspect stands out as this provides a starting point for future learning, making this activity part of a circular process that makes learning continuously throughout life possible.

In essence, this book on educational ethics is required reading for any educator or anyone connected — or interested in being connected — with education. Its focus is simultaneously theoretical and didactic, as shown by the final comments in each chapter, which are often linked to teaching practice, and the original activities proposed in all of them. The wide variety of topics it considers are proof of the significance of ethics in education, which too often tend to be forgotten or underestimated, foregoing one of the essential elements of the task of educating: its ethical dimension. Furthermore, this book is not just for newcomers or for experts, but rather for both since depending on the stage in life they have reached, each educator will be able to draw different conclusions, analyses, and reflections linked to their educational practice.

Ana García-Bravo