Teaching social behavior in learning institutions

By Ibrahim Mohammed. Ibrahim is a pre-unit teacher at Bridge International Academy, Kenya

Society is usually considered morally upright and successful when all of its members confine themselves to the acceptable social norms. It is for this reason most people coexist peacefully. In addition, social behaviors are not innate in nature; they are extrinsic factors that are instilled into individuals in many ways. However, the main bone of contention is to point out who should be responsible for instilling these behaviors into them.

Based on Albert Bandura’s theory of social learning, which he propounded in the late 70s, the behavior is learnt from the environment through observational learning. This theory is very convenient especially when the individuals are young. He argues that children have a higher capacity of emulating behaviors from their environment including their role models. A role model in this context could possibly be a parent, a celebrity, peers or even teachers at school. A child will keenly observe the traits of their models and try to match along with those that interest them. Finally in later years, they tend to reproduce those behaviors.

Behaviors differ from each individual to another. Some may develop or adopt a series of behaviors in their lives depending on the environments in which they live. Examples of behaviors entail emotional behaviors, aggressive behavior, violent behavior, as well as pro-social behavior among others.

The worrying thing is that these behaviours learnt by children on observational capacity may not much the societal hegemonic consideration of ‘good’ behaviors. And thus this leads to the question, should schools and universities teach students about social behaviors alongside academic work? According to my take, the answer to this question is yes for various reasons.

First, behavior and professionalism are dependent. Ethical considerations of every individual within the society often become one of the key factors to observe irrespective of the career one holds onto. For instance, teachers or lecturers should lead by example; their career as educators should be guided as set of socially acceptable behavior at all times.

Second, the schools have better chances of shaping social behaviors than done by parents and guardians. Students or kids spend the greater part of their lives in school with teachers than when at home with parents. Therefore, by teaching them on how to behave well and correcting otherwise undesirable behavior, these institutions stand a chance of building a generation of socially responsible society.

Third, the schools/universities, by having a standard curriculum, will instigate and act as a wonderful tonic to promote pro-social behaviors. Students in these institutions usually come from different backgrounds and cultures. Thus, a behavior that is considered ethical or socially acceptable in one community may be utterly unacceptable in another. Therefore, by introducing social behavior lessons in these institutions of learning, it will develop a unified society.

However, inasmuch as the proposal of teaching social behavior alongside academic work in schools is sublime, there are challenges that come along with it. First, in the case of universities, unlike lower schools, teaching new behavior to adults might be a hard nut to crack. For instance, suppose an individual was raised in a family where male chauvinism or feminism is extreme, it won’t be easy to teach such a student to change. Consequently, it becomes a waste of time, not unless the pro-social behaviors are introduced at tender ages.

Another challenge that might hinder the success of teaching social behavior in schools is peer influence. Due to the interactive nature of social beings, students share various characteristics which may in one way or the other interest others. Despite the efforts by schools to standardize acceptable behaviors, reinforcement tends to suffer a huge blow, since most schools concentrate on ensuring students pass exams which are theoretical in nature and forget the practical part of it. As a result, you find learned people in society with successful careers who are not better than a bunch of misfits with socially unacceptable behaviors.

My take on this issue of social behavior being part of school programme is that it is a good move that each school and university should think of adopting. Inasmuch as it may have challenges in implementing it, due to some factors such as cultural differences and lack of willingness from stakeholders, it is worth a journey to invest in. Finally in the process of instilling the pro-social behaviors among students, educators should learn to appreciate and respect the cultural diversity of all their students sans discrimination any nature.

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