Publication | U4 Issue

Values education for public integrity

What works and what doesn’t

The importance of educating young people about integrity

Globally, corruption remains a stubborn challenge. The traditional methods of preventing corruption rely on efforts to limit discretion and increase accountability on the part of decision makers. These have resulted in legislative and policy decisions that favour strong enforcement and complex control systems. These methods, which aim to increase the costs and lower the benefits of undesired behaviour, have their place in the anti-corruption toolkit. But there is growing acknowledgement that social norms and values are also critical in effectively preventing corruption.2901e66f5e3f

This underscores the need for a whole-of-society mobilisation in which citizens not only hold government accountable for integrity violations, but also understand and uphold their own responsibilities for integrity. Ethics are an important component of anti-corruption approaches. As Rothstein and Sorak9a91eb34ea00 observe, laws have limits. Legal remedies cannot be applied precisely in every situation that a decision maker encounters, and decision makers often have substantial discretion in applying the law. Values and ethics help them do so in a fair and transparent manner.

Youth are central to a whole-of-society culture of integrity, and education is an important tool for reaching them. Education for public integrity engages youth in an ongoing dialogue and exploration of their roles and responsibilities as citizens. When done well, such education can help young people cultivate lifelong integrity values and can give them the skills and knowledge to uphold their integrity roles and responsibilities.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Recommendation on Public Integrity spotlights the role of education in the fight against corruption. It calls on countries to raise awareness of the benefits of public integrity, reduce tolerance of violations of public integrity standards, and promote civic education on public integrity, particularly in schools. Furthermore, the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) calls for public education programmes to foster non-tolerance of corruption and encourages countries to include the topic in school and university curricula (Article 13).

Schools, colleges, and universities are the formal institutions through which young people are socialised into the prevailing legal, moral, and social norms of their societies. They play a core role in developing the attitudes and skills that citizens need to act in the public interest. Around the world, a growing number of countries are intentionally promoting a culture of integrity through education institutions. As these practices increase, we can draw on a wealth of information to highlight good practices, tools and methods, and challenges for implementation.

Social norms, values, and corruption

Unless norms and values change, anti-corruption laws can have only a limited impact. Experimental evidence has found that social norms regarding acceptable and unacceptable practices can influence how individuals behave when confronted with a corruption scenario.65cf1419da85 Similarly, Gebel25dcf9f4b53e notes that looking at the social context and its impact on norms is essential to an understanding of corruption. She calls for an assessment of how particular norms make the actions of politicians, public officials, and members of the business sector legitimate or illegitimate. Baez Camargo and Passas236af0b3958e argue that high levels of corruption are associated with a significant discrepancy between formal rules and informal practices. In such settings, corrupt acts such as bribery and nepotism may be considered socially acceptable because they are regarded as a means to solve practical problems.

Some scholars stress that corruption is a collective action problem: that is, when corruption is the expected behaviour of the majority, people engage in corrupt acts because they believe that everyone else is doing so too.cf7bb4c1fae7 This understanding of corruption points to the critical importance of social norms. When prevailing norms allow or encourage people to circumvent certain rules, the collective action problem is exacerbated. Collier537acf621f0d suggests that the solution is to generate ‘new common knowledge’. The objective is for everyone in the society to know that a corrupt act will undermine a common value, and for everyone to know that everyone knows it. The role of education in identifying public integrity norms and values and socialising them across society is therefore crucial to countering the collective action problems that enable corruption.

Social norms differ from one context to another. And while some acts receive universal condemnation, many fall in grey zones of tolerance. There is no uniform social determination of unethical behaviour. Several opinion surveys have investigated people’s levels of tolerance for fraud and economic wrongdoing. In some cases the attitudes appear similar across societies. For example, the World Values Survey (WVS), the European Social Survey (ESS), and Afrobarometer asked respondents about the acceptability of not paying taxes that are due. The results across societies show a robust rejection of tax fraud. When aggregating all countries, the WVS shows that close to 80% of respondents consider it unjustifiable to cheat on taxes. The ESScdacf5223d33 results are very similar, with 80% of respondents agreeing or strongly agreeing with the statement ‘citizens should not cheat on taxes.’

Some other surveys, however, have found national differences in attitudes towards corruption. In a 2016 survey of youth in East Africa, 50%–58% of young people in Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda said it does not matter how one makes money as long as one does not end up in jail. However, only 21% of Rwandan youth held the same view. And only 10% of Rwandan youth said they would take or give a bribe, compared to 35%–44% in Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda.54abcb5e8627 Although the factors underlying these differences cannot be proven, it is worth noting that Rwanda has made concerted efforts to teach values and integrity in schools.

Regardless of the differences in attitudes towards unethical behaviour, there is a growing global consensus on the importance of integrity, transparency, and accountability in public office and in business.2cc0640d1d2d Accordingly, schools and tertiary institutions have a role to play in elevating and improving adherence to these norms.

Identifying public integrity norms and values

In sociology, norms are generally defined as the customary rules that govern behaviour in societies.e5ce1ab55cd1 Values relate to the beliefs or qualities that influence a person’s judgement about what is good or right, and ethics can be loosely defined as a system of moral principles. But norms answer the practical question: What is the right thing to do? Building on these concepts, integrity can be understood as the quality of acting in harmony with relevant moral values, norms, and rules.3c13d3c2dccc

The OECD722f184a4d21 defines public integrity as the ‘consistent alignment of, and adherence to, shared ethical values, principles and norms for upholding and prioritising the public interest over private interests in the public sector.’ This paper will use the OECD definition to inform the discussion of education for public integrity.

While specific values, norms, and principles differ in degree of importance and recognition across societies and communities, certain ethical values enjoy widespread acceptance, including courage, honesty, fairness, accountability, transparency, and integrity. Rothstein and Sorakc9859286a79c find that ethical codes for public administration have become important around the world. At least 154 countries have developed such codes, recognising the limits of laws in governing official conduct and the limits of economic incentives in steering complex organisations. Rothstein and Sorak surveyed the public ethics codes of 22 countries, spanning Europe, North America, Latin America, Africa, and Asia. They found striking similarities and a consistent pattern of core values that are supposed to guide all public servants. Table 1 shows their categorisation of the range of values from the countries surveyed.

Table 1: Public service values


impartiality, objectivity, (political) neutrality, fairness, unbiased


openness, transparency, open competition, personal financial transparency, secrecy, confidentiality of government documents


integrity, honesty, truthfulness, honour, confidentiality of clients, privacy, anonymity, discretion, legitimacy, decency, accountability (to the public and/or the government), ethical conduct, respectability, public interest, public trust, reporting misconduct, safeguarding public funds and property, discipline, austerity, personal financial responsibility


legality, lawfulness, rule of law, supremacy of law, respect for law, correct application of law, carrying out of lawful orders


loyalty, loyalty to government, loyalty to constitution, loyalty to laws, loyalty to citizens, loyalty to country, loyalty to ethical code, respect for government, respect for citizens/state, hierarchic subordination, obedience, patriotism/nationalism

Equal treatment

equal treatment, respecting rights, equity, equality, justice, human dignity, respect for others, non-discrimination, non-harassment, inclusiveness, representativeness, diversity, meritocracy


reliability, duty, devotion, diligence, commitment, responsibility, dedication, stability


engagement, humility, courtesy, customer-friendliness, care, flexibility, responsiveness, selflessness, sympathy, promptness, modesty, creativity, clarity, accessibility, attentiveness, capacity, leadership, sense of calling, sense of service, independence, disinterestedness, innovation, quality, speed, excellence in service


professionalism, accuracy, competence, effectiveness, efficiency, trained, uniformity, productivity, punctuality, cost-control, specialisation, experience, performance, expertise, teamwork, personal improvement, proper use of resources, following procedures

Source: Rothstein and Sorak (2017: 23)

Can integrity education be effective?

Before considering how best to educate for public integrity, we must first ask whether the education system can be used to effectively shape public integrity norms and values. Existing practices and evidence from various education programmes suggest that the education system is indeed a key institution through which society’s norms and values can be introduced and nurtured. Although evidence on the most effective way to teach public integrity is limited, there are lessons to be learned from what has been tried so far.

Primary-secondary education

Around the world, primary and secondary schools are working to socialise young people to embrace their societies’ legal, moral, and social norms and to confront key social problems. Education on civics and citizenship, character and values, human rights, and peace is used to develop the knowledge, skills, and attitudes required for adulthood. Box 1 presents an overview of these fields of instruction and their intended aims.

Box 1: Education for social change: An overview of citizenship, character, peace, and human rights education

Citizenship education is primarily concerned with mobilising youth to understand their roles and responsibilities as citizens. It seeks to produce autonomous, critically reflective adults who are committed and active in society (Halstead and Pike 2006). Citizenship education aims not only to impart knowledge, but also to develop civic attitudes and a willingness to take an active part in community life (Schulz et al. 2016).

Similarly, character education tries to equip students with the knowledge and skills to be informed, actively committed, and critically reflective about the morals and values in their society. It goes beyond moral reasoning and instead emphasises moral behaviour and the responsibility to contribute to the public good (Halstead and Pike 2006).

Peace education and human rights education also concern a citizen’s roles and responsibilities, but their primary focus is on cultivating the skills, knowledge, and attitudes to address social injustices. Peace education teaches about what peace is, why it does not exist, and how to achieve it. It includes developing skills for non-violence and promoting peaceful attitudes (Harris 2004). Peace education can also emphasise citizen engagement with social and political issues on a national and/or transnational scale (Bickmore 2008).

Human rights education is defined as ‘education, training and information aimed at building a universal culture of human rights’ (OHCHR 2012). The United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Education and Training (2011) describes it as ‘a lifelong process that concerns all ages [and] all parts of society, at all levels, including preschool, primary, secondary and higher education, taking into account academic freedom where applicable, and all forms of education, training and learning, whether in a public or private, formal, informal or non-formal setting.’ The UN World Programme for Human Rights Education, which began in 2005, has spearheaded the development of pedagogical guidance on human rights in primary and secondary school curricula.

There has been little research on the impact of education for public integrity, as the OECD notes in its report Education for integrity: Teaching on anti-corruption, values and the rule of law.5bdee89087a6 The OECD does find, however, that the results of civic education programmes suggest that such education can have a positive impact on young people. For instance, there is evidence that education programmes can increase young people’s rejection of corruption and diminish the likelihood that they will tolerate or participate in law-breaking activities.7a56d354cfa3

Other research has likewise found that the education system can shape public integrity values. For instance, a 2016 study showed that students who had participated in civic education programmes were more likely to agree that obeying the law was a crucial characteristic of responsible citizenship behaviour.c77bf349d87d Similarly, a 15-year longitudinal study found that adults who had attended schools where civic education was encouraged demonstrated higher civic engagement, such as active voting habits and volunteering.600ef470f9dd Moreover, a three-year panel study by Gunnarson20d375114666 in Italy found that the public schools could be used to increase trust among young citizens. Treating generalised trust as the dependent valuable, the researchers showed that factors such as the openness of school and classroom structures, the fairness of the institutions, perceptions of a caring school environment, peer interaction, and school curriculum all influenced students’ generalised trust.

In many countries, topics related to corruption and public integrity are introduced within the framework of existing courses on civics, human rights, or related social science topics. In some cases, topics are integrated into the curriculum, whereas in others, anti-corruption practitioners or civil society organisations are invited by the ministry of education or the school to present material about integrity and corruption to students.455a038a86e9

Tertiary education

According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), tertiary or higher education includes ‘all types of studies, training or training for research at the post-secondary level, provided by universities or other educational establishments that are approved as institutions of higher education by the competent State authorities’.120abc8d4a5c Higher education is crucial for innovation and social change in the knowledge-based society of the twenty-first century. The UNESCO World Declaration on Higher Education for the Twenty-First Century states that one of the core missions of higher education is to train young people in the values that form the basis of democratic citizenship. It calls upon educators and students to defend and disseminate universally accepted values, including peace, justice, freedom, equality, and solidarity. It emphasises that in the long term, higher education should aim at ‘the creation of a new society – non-violent and non-exploitative – consisting of highly cultivated, motivated and integrated individuals, inspired by love for humanity and guided by wisdom’.

Various fields of professional education, such as law, teaching, medicine, public administration, and business, teach values by incorporating ethics components into their curricula. Ethics form a crucial part of the professional standards with which members of professions must comply, and the term ‘professional’ is synonymous with principled ethical behaviour.3de359e15a76 Often, however, courses in these fields do not adequately address corruption-related ethical dilemmas but focus more on specific issues such as confidentiality and fiduciary duties to clients.ade240437a2f Whalen-Bridge observes that universities are ideally suited to innovation and crafting solutions to societal problems and should therefore place more emphasis on teaching about corruption.

Tertiary education provides a good opportunity to consolidate integrity and ethics education because it is the final stage prior to entry into the workforce. Ensuring that institutions that train future leaders promote the necessary values in their education curricula is therefore foundational to building a cadre of ethical public servants. Some studies show that teaching values and ethics at tertiary level can improve students’ ethical sensitivity,1c2309b07bb4 though a meta-analytic review of ethics programmes concluded that the impact of such teaching is minimal or short-lived.5c56ccf2f3c5 Despite this, teaching values is mandated by the United Nations Convention against Corruption, so the most important question now is which teaching methods achieve the best results, as will be discussed further below.

Global good practices in integrity education: Primary-secondary level

There are various approaches to educating for public integrity in primary and secondary schools. Ethics and integrity education can be introduced in the core curriculum or as an extracurricular component, or conducted as a special schoolwide event. Technology can facilitate the inclusion of ethics and integrity in schools using apps, interactive games, videos, or online courses.

It is difficult to determine which pedagogical approach may be most effective for improving students’ moral judgement and adherence to values of ethics and integrity, as there are few comparative and evaluative studies in this area. Most of the existing impact studies of ethics training are country- or discipline-specific, with limited sample sizes.

An evaluation of civic education programmes in ninth-grade classrooms in the United States was conducted by Martens and Gainous.c83a5ed8e45c They found that four broad teaching approaches were employed by social studies teachers: traditional teaching, active learning, video teaching, and maintenance of an open classroom climate (a classroom environment where different perspectives on political issues are debated).

Fostering an open classroom and encouraging student input, in combination with the other methods, was found to be the most fruitful pedagogical approach across the board. Students who learn in an open classroom environment develop empathy, critical thinking, the ability to understand the beliefs, interests, and views of others, as well as the ability to reason about controversial issues and choose different alternatives.aea4820e1b77 These qualities are essential to living in a society that can reject corruption and uphold public integrity. A whole-of-school approach, where the school environment accords genuine rights and responsibilities to all its members, modelling democratic and respectful behaviours in all its actions, is crucial. Under this approach, student voices are not only listened to, but trusted and honoured.7f4448037b8e

In his analysis of the role of pedagogy in citizenship education, Evans89597ad7654c identified three types of teaching methods: transmission, transactional, and transformative. The transmission model treats knowledge as fixed and the teacher as a core transmitter of knowledge, while transactional and transformative forms of pedagogy enable a more fluid exchange between teachers and students. These latter forms were found to be the most effective in developing active citizens.

Building on this, it is important to encourage students to use their own knowledge and experiences to inspire their citizenship action and engagement. Pedagogical practices that respect student experiences, engage student views, and encourage open and frank dialogue have been found to be more effective in cultivating active citizenship than practices that do not. For example, an investigation of lessons learned in designing civic education programmes found that teaching methods based on participation and learning by doing, and focused on issues directly relevant to student’s daily lives, were more successful than courses that did not encompass these elements.d85478ad8587

This can extend beyond the school to the wider community. Young people need to feel that their contribution has an impact on their community, on a specific policy, or on whatever domain they are involved in. Evidence has found that participation in extracurricular activities generally has a positive impact on academic achievement and prosocial behaviour.0b99638696b2

One form of extracurricular learning, namely service learning, allows students to combine classroom instruction with engagement in civic and community activities. Celio, Durlak, and Dymnickiccb7f5534a85 identify four recommended practices for service learning: (a) linking the programmes to existing learning outcomes; (b) involving youth in the design and selection of the activities; (c) involving community partners; and (d) providing opportunities for students to reflect on the experiences. The service learning activity needs to be well integrated into existing course work, with a clear set of learning objectives. It should also incorporate sufficient time for in-class structured reflection so that students can transfer the practical experience to academic learning.

In addition to service learning, other forms of tangible, hands-on activities help students see the impact of integrity. For instance, students might be involved in social audits. The examples in Box 2 illustrate a variety of hands-on, experiential approaches to integrity education.

Box 2: Practical activities to empower students for integrity

In Bangladesh, several schools have set up ‘integrity stores’ (satata stores). These stores have no cashier, but require students to put money for the items they buy in a box. The purpose of this initiative, set up by the country’s Anti-Corruption Commission and the United Nations Development Programme, is to help students learn and practice the principle of integrity at an early age (Islam 2018).

In Lithuania, students engaged with local non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and municipal governments to apply anti-corruption knowledge in a tangible way. In one city, the local anti-corruption official introduced students to areas at risk for corruption within the local administration and the municipality’s plans to address the risks. The students inspected employee logs, as a government official would, to check for irregularities and potential areas of abuse of public resources, such as government vehicles and fuel cards (Gainer 2015).

Another innovative approach to engaging students was found in Venezuela. Here, under a project named ‘The Comptroller General goes to school,’ students between 9 and 14 years of age voted for a ‘comptroller general’ from among their peers. Serving one-year terms, the elected student comptrollers took an oath, assigned a team, and wrote bimonthly reports on the school, covering areas such as resources, library and cafeteria management, maintenance, rules, and schedules. Based on these bimonthly reports, the student comptrollers then prepared a final report that contained recommendations and complaints. These reports were transmitted to the government, with the support of the Citizens Assistance Office, and received a response from officials (UNODC 2017a).

Finally, Crick, Broadfoot, and Claxton17a1b55c285d call for creating a structure that encourages school leaders, teachers, and other staff to engage in these processes. Teachers need to be confident in their ability to guide students in honest conversations about difficult topics. Successful education programmes therefore provide teachers and staff with a support structure and the opportunity to develop their professional skills in relevant areas. Berkowitz, Althof, and Jones61fbf1638ffa found that schools that had implemented effective character education programmes also ensured that teachers had access to substantial professional development opportunities to assist them in implementing character education. Teachers need the skills to encourage their students to speak up, and they also need the skills to manage conversations so that students feel their voices are valued. Teachers can help their students learn the art of taking turns and building on the experiences, viewpoints, and arguments of others. Towards this end, teachers must be trained to help their students listen to one another, tolerate the views of others, and then articulate their own views and synthesise a shared position.675a31f451b4 An example of teacher training in Estonia is outlined in Box 3.

Box 3: ‘Whole school, whole community’ teacher training

In Estonia, a Regional Baltic Summer Academy trains teachers to teach human rights education and education for democratic citizenship and history learning. Although the programme does not focus specifically on integrity and anti-corruption skills, it serves as a useful example of how integrity and anti-corruption training could be modelled. During the Regional Summer Academy, participants gather in teams comprising a school head, a history teacher, and representatives from an NGO, a parent body, and the local authority. Through this broad involvement, cooperation between teachers and the wider community is strengthened. The training model included elements such as handling sensitive topics (e.g., historical events) in the classroom; creating increased awareness about human rights in the school; developing a democratic culture; and handling the multicultural dimension in everyday school life (European Commission, EACEA, and Eurydice 2016).

The next section briefly considers various approaches to integrity education that are being tried by different countries at the primary-secondary level. The OECD7e32fc220f80 has compiled an overview of existing country practices in integrity and anti-corruption education in schools. They fall into two general categories: (a) mainstreaming of public integrity values through the curriculum, and (b) delivering education for public integrity by the country’s anti-corruption body. (A third approach identified by the OECD, delivering integrity education in an after-school programme, is not considered here.)

Curriculum-based approach

Countries that incorporate public integrity education into the curriculum typically integrate modules into existing citizenship, ethics, or values courses. They may also provide support to teachers through teacher manuals or additional materials.

In Hungary, integrity and anti-corruption concepts are integrated into the ethics curriculum. Officials at the Ministry of Public Administration and Justice, in consultation with stakeholders, developed modules first for upper secondary students, and several years later for lower secondary students.74b3354910e8

In Rwanda, the government has used formal and informal strategies to deliver values education as part of its national rebuilding process following the 1994 genocide. The formal mechanisms include changes to the school curriculum, with lessons on corruption, crime, and gender issues, as well as culture and values. The messages in the curriculum are reinforced by radio shows and ‘anti-corruption weeks’ that educate citizens about the negative consequences of corruption. The government also runs itorero, precolonial-style training camps where participants spend several weeks learning about Rwandan history and values.9b3b01d5f778

In other cases, instead of a set curriculum, schools provide resource guides that include activities about corruption and integrity, which teachers can incorporate as they see fit. The United States and Lithuania, among other countries, use this approach. For example, in the United States, where education is a state rather than federal responsibility, each state develops the curriculum and content standards for its school districts. The use of online teaching resources on anti-corruption and integrity complements this decentralised approach. Resources such as PBS Learning Media, an online portal for educational resources, offer anti-corruption and integrity materials for teachers. These include interdisciplinary lesson plans, classroom activities, on-demand video, and interactive games and simulations. Their interdisciplinary nature enables teachers to link to subjects such as social studies, history, citizenship education, science, language, fine arts, and health education.19f24006e40b

Through its Education for Justice (E4J) initiative, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has compiled a range of teaching materials that can be used to educate students at primary and secondary levels on integrity. They include electronic games, board games, and teaching resources such as lesson plans.

Education role of the anti-corruption authority

In Austria, the Federal Bureau of Anti-Corruption (BAK) conductsanti-corruption training for students aged 14–18 years. Piloted in 2012, the programme targets students in high schools and vocational training schools. The course is not mandatory, but interested school directors can invite the BAK to conduct an anti-corruption event or workshop in their schools. The anti-corruption event reaches a large number of students: classroom doors are opened, and the entire school premises (if possible) are used. Moving through a series of stations, small groups of students learn about different topics in corruption prevention and integrity promotion. The anti-corruption workshops comprise eight 45-minute units on topics including corruption, prevention of corruption, economic crime, compliance, and the legal basis for fighting corruption. The objective is to prepare students to recognise and prevent corrupt situations in their future professional lives. The programme also aims to develop expertise in values, decisions, and actions, with an emphasis on citizens’ roles in preventing and fighting corruption.ae9198882a0e

In Hong Kong, the Independent Commission against Corruption (ICAC) develops programmes on anti-corruption and integrity for primary and secondary schools in cooperation with school principals and teachers. A school can work with officers from the ICAC Youth and Moral Education Office (who are themselves former teachers or community educators) to design a curriculum tailored to the specific school. Integrity, fairness, and compliance with the law are key themes. The teaching materials cover a series of topics, such as how to recognise corruption, what constitutes fair play, the problem of cheating, and the notion of upholding core values. The materials are interdisciplinary and link the topics to core subjects in science, mathematics, and language arts.093ed18f68de

In Malaysia, the Anti-Corruption Commission prepared short modules for educators to facilitate the delivery of talks, trainings, or workshops for students. The modules include pamphlets and additional materials with information for children.309d492de7d7

National anti-corruption bodies can also leverage educational technologies. In Bolivia, the Ministry for Institutional Transparency and the Fight against Corruption worked with UNODC to co-develop an app called Juega Limpio (Play Fair). The app includes games with information for youth on corruption, transparency, and integrity. The first four games – Transparency against Corruption; Discovering Crimes; The Anti-Corruption Mouse; and Fighting Corruption: A Right and an Obligation – introduce players to basic concepts. They also familiarise users with anti-corruption institutions, crimes associated with corruption, as well as society’s responsibility to prevent corruption. Three additional games are designed to be used by multiple players at once: Against Corruption, Our Participation; The Wheel of Access to Information; and BINGO! Let’s Eliminate Corruption. These three games promote concepts of transparency and access to information, give players information on how they can help solve corruption issues, and review and test the knowledge acquired.7f899d8dc2a7

Global good practices in integrity education: Tertiary level

Higher education institutions around the world have adopted various approaches to ethics and anti-corruption teaching and training. Some mainstream these topics across the curriculum, while others rely on specialised courses, conferences, guest lectures, ad hoc events, or experience-based learning programmes. There is no consensus on the goals, methods, or scope of ethics instruction at tertiary level.5d8a53a43c84 However, efforts to reach such a consensus are ongoing, for instance through the Compostela Group of Universities, the World University Consortium, and the World Academy of Art and Science, a global network of 700+ university professors.

These three entities have endorsed the Whole-of-University Promotion of Social Capital, Health and Development, known as the Poznan Declaration, signed in September 2014. The declaration recognises that the educational system has been producing individuals equipped for pursuit of narrow self-interest, and that higher education therefore needs to adopt a more holistic approach to ethics and integrity for all students. The declaration calls on institutions of higher education to:

  • Endorse a cross-faculty approach to include ethics and anti-corruption education in all university curricula.
  • Encourage lecturers and professors to facilitate the incorporation of ethics issues in their classes.
  • Emphasise ethics as the cornerstone of professional identities, which set the boundaries of future acceptable behaviour.
  • Ensure transparency, accountability, and impartiality in teaching, student recruitment, student assessment, and research, as well as in the award of degrees, employment, and promotions.

Moreover, to promote the inclusion of ethics and anti-corruption components in existing curricula, the declaration suggests the following:

  • Draw attention to the growing body of research that shows a correlation between levels of corruption and other variables such as health, development, social trust, and quality of government.
  • Raise awareness of existing domestic anti-corruption law as well as regional and international initiatives against corruption.
  • Organise discussion seminars on values and norms that should govern human social interactions.
  • Use case studies from real professional practice as a teaching tool.
  • Leverage e-learning technologies such as computer-based programs, video conferences, and apps that provide ethical dilemma training through simulations that encourage students to take appropriate action in a corruption scenario.

Some universities offer specialised ethics training as part of undergraduate and post-graduate degree programmes. A 2017 review prepared for the UNCAC Working Group on the Prevention of Corruption found that several States Parties to UNCAC continue to rely on the ethics components of specialised courses in science, law, economics, business, and political science as the chief means of ethics training at tertiary level.018d534419de Such courses often include modules on corruption or modules on ethics and professional responsibility that indirectly touch upon corruption. At the undergraduate level, courses with titles like Ethics in Government, Good Governance and Corruption, and Economic Crime form part of various degree programmes. There are also master’s degree courses on anti-corruption and governance.

Some universities use ad hoc training at conferences, expert guest lectures, and other events. Menzel8a932bc982b0 found that students may prefer such events over classroom-based learning because they allow the opportunity to interact with other professionals and share experiences, which leaves a lasting impact. In some countries, such as Pakistan, Mauritius, Guatemala, and Serbia, national anti-corruption agencies collaborate with universities to deliver one-off or regular lectures and seminars on ethics and corruption. In other cases, universities host conferences on corruption-related issues to raise awareness and encourage public debate. Some countries such as Mauritius and Ecuador involve their anti-corruption agencies in designing such modules. Other options include e-learning that takes place informally alongside or as part of classroom learning.18c8d97cc011

Universities also utilise experience-based learning programmes such as internships, clinics, and debates. Many universities now require a period of internship as an essential component of a degree. Internships with anti-corruption agencies, local authorities, and administrative departments can be tailored to build capacity on ethics and integrity. In Romania, students took part in Transparency Brigades that helped local authorities assess corruption risks.07e412366bdd

Giving Voice to Values (GVV) is an experiential pedagogical method that is being applied in managerial accounting ethics courses at some US universities such as Yale and the University of Virginia. It seeks to promote ethical action by developing students’ capacity to effectively voice and enact their values when faced with an ethical dilemma. GVV is based on the premise that decision makers often know the right thing to do, but they need to be able to articulate their personal and professional values in situations where colleagues or other actors press them to compromise their values. Using scripting and rehearsals, GVV places students in situations where they need to make a choice, effectively communicate it, stand up for their values, and reflect on the outcome.f063d0eb2f20 An evaluation found that students who were taught ethics using GVV were more likely, later in their professional lives, to speak up and confront unethical actions by expressing their opinions to internal management or to blow the whistle by calling company hotlines or going to external agencies.6cec40532cab

Law clinics at universities have long offered legal aid services to the public. Members of the public who cannot afford steep legal fees receive help, while students benefit through a hands-on approach to learning.d9db941fcfa7 In Serbia, an anti-corruption law clinic operates at the University of Belgrade. Serbia’s anti-corruption agency contributed to the operation of the clinic by building the capacity of staff and students.61a2ff670dc9

Moot courts are a common feature in law schools across the world. They are usually organised on a competitive basis, with law students working in pairs or teams. The winning teams are recognised for skill in legal reasoning and oration. The Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition, administered by the International Law Students Association (ILSA), is the world’s largest advocacy competition for law students, with participants from over 500 law schools in more than 80 countries. In 2011, ILSA and the OECD partnered to hold a moot court competition that featured a simulated dispute between countries before the International Court of Justice relating to a fictional breach of the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention.

The Ghana Institute of Economic Affairs organised an inter-university debate under the theme ‘Empowering Youth in the Fight against Corruption.’ In Mauritius, the national anti-corruption body organised a public speaking competition that attracted 109 students from 15 tertiary institutions. China organised contests on anti-corruption themes in the areas of performing arts, calligraphy, paintings, art and design, and media studies. Over 45,000 works were submitted, and the best were displayed on a dedicated website. China has also held anti-corruption essay competitions for students.bc2f8570d074

University ‘integrity clubs’ have been started in Saudi Arabia, Mauritius, and China. The clubs give like-minded students a platform to express their views, share experiences, sharpen their leadership and organisational skills, and organise events on integrity themes.e541ca28f61b

Lastly, information and communication technologies have expanded the possibilities for teaching and learning ethics and integrity. Some universities have developed massive open online courses (MOOCs) on integrity. While these tend to focus on academic integrity, the ethical principles promoted, such as honesty and respect for others, also apply to life outside academia. UNODC has developed two anti-corruption e-learning modules: ‘Introduction to Anti-Corruption’ and ‘Advanced Anti-Corruption: Prevention of Corruption.’ A video-based interactive e-learning tool titled ‘The Fight against Corruption’ is available in over 20 languages.

The Communication University of China sponsors an e-magazine called Views on Integrity, WeChat discussion groups, and messaging apps that send relevant messages to students and teachers. The discussions encourage users to understand conflicts of interests and other ethical dilemmas and to make appropriate decisions in such situations.7ba491ef7db3

The importance of participation

There have been various efforts to evaluate the most effective pedagogical approaches for teaching ethics and integrity at tertiary level. A meta-analysis of business ethics training programmes by Medeiros et al.04952103ca21 assessed their effectiveness based on their instructional content, processes, delivery methods, and activities. The study found that courses with active participation by trainees, through problem-based learning and debates, for instance, displayed the largest effects. Case-based learning was found to be more effective than lectures. The meta-analysis also suggested that face-to-face training is more effective than online training. Short trainings targeted towards those who are already in the workforce are also effective.

Participation is an indispensable element of learning in general, as emphasised by the Taxonomy of Educational Objectives, also known as Bloom’s Taxonomy. It suggests that learning is most effective when it combines three dimensions: thinking, feeling, and doing.002d1ae1396c This suggests that in order to be effective, ethics and integrity education programmes should be as participatory and experiential as possible.

They should also be closely integrated with core instruction and course work. A longitudinal study by Bosco et al.5b83e53320f8 sought to determine how common instructional methods used in business ethics classes could foster higher levels of moral judgement competence for students. Moral judgement competence levels for undergraduate and graduate students from three institutions were measured and compared based upon the pedagogical method used. The authors found significant differences. Students in classes where ethics teaching was highly integrated into all aspects of the course scored higher in moral reasoning and moral competence than those where ethics was taught as a separate class, and the latter scored higher than those who received no ethics instruction at all. One of the most important findings from impact studies, therefore, is that ethics training, regardless of the pedagogy adopted, helps improve moral competence compared to not having any such training at all.

Designing public integrity and anti-corruption education: Lessons learned

Schools and universities should consider several factors before incorporating public integrity and anti-corruption education into their curricula. The content of educational curricula can be politically sensitive, and therefore it is important to adopt a participatory approach when proposing and introducing changes to curriculum and to teacher education. The following are some lessons learned from experiences in various countries.

Adopt a gradual approach to curriculum design that includes all stakeholders

The development of new curriculum is a slow process and involves multiple stakeholders, including national and local lawmakers, government officials, content experts, principals, teachers, parent groups, and in some cases students. Curriculum reform is a political issue, often fraught with tensions and disagreement. Political parties, religious groups, ethnic groups, and others often disagree strongly on the question of what should and should not be taught in schools. Some groups prefer that values be imparted within a theistic framework, whereas others may prefer a humanist or secular framework. Many secular countries allow religious schools to teach values and integrity within the framework of their religion, but often in states that self-identify as religious, teaching values in a humanist secular framework is not condoned. Such disagreements can delay or even paralyse reform efforts.

Therefore, a necessary first step is to seek national consensus on what values should be promoted in the curriculum and how they should be framed. There is often some common ground among different cultures and religions regarding the values of honesty, moral decency, and treating other people with respect. These can form the basis of ethics instruction that the majority can agree upon.

In countries that were previously colonised, where the formal education system was structured by colonial governments, curriculum reform may be influenced by the legitimate desire to nationalise/indigenise the curriculum to reflect local knowledge and values. Countries such as South Africa have promoted indigenous conceptions of humanistic values such as ubuntu, which emphasises human dignity based on mutuality and interdependence and the importance of the individual as part of the collective.752dcbb5c168

Once consensus has been achieved, a series of consultative meetings should be held to engage all stakeholders in the curriculum design process. In Lithuania, for instance, the anti-corruption curriculum was developed over six years, with a series of consultations, engagement of stakeholders, and pilot initiatives informing the creation of a tailored curriculum.

Leverage political will and government commitment to integrate education about public integrity into the school system

As noted above, changing the curriculum requires the involvement of multiple stakeholders, including education officials and other government figures. This means that political will and commitment by stakeholders is a key element of success.

In Hungary, the decision to implement an integrity and anti-corruption curriculum was made at the highest political level. It was then incorporated into Government Decision No. 1104/2012, known as the Corruption Prevention Programme. Public officials at the Ministry of Public Administration and Justice (MPAJ) developed anti-corruption modules and engaged in consultations with stakeholders, including the Ministry of Human Resources (MHR), which oversees education. After approval by the MPAJ and MHR, the modules were incorporated into the primary-secondary ethics curriculum.

Hungary’s revised National Anti-Corruption Programme (2015–2018) commits the country to continuing education on the topic. Accordingly, the government is revising the general curriculum and further developing integrity and anti-corruption training for grades 9–12. To that end, the MHR launched a working group that included the experts of the National Protective Service, the National Crime Prevention Council, the National Police Headquarters, and the National Institute for Educational Research and Development. The working group recommended incorporating anti-corruption information into several subjects in addition to ethics and holding regular one-day events for integrity training in schools.43909b48a756

Take students’ experiences and beliefs into account

In developing integrity education, government officials must also consider the broader context of students’ lives. If most youth do not see the value of acting honestly – if they see integrity and ethics as standing in the way of success – officials should design programmes that inspire them to question such assumptions. For example, in the late 2000s Argentina’s Anti-Corruption Office conducted a series of qualitative and quantitative surveys to assess how young people viewed corruption and what they perceived as the barriers to confronting it. The Anti-Corruption Office then used the results of this study to inform the development of educational materials and teacher training. This helped the programme provide young Argentines with the knowledge and tools they need to address the integrity challenges they face.d83b76d58ad4

Utilise a cross-curricular approach

To effectively deliver integrity education in the classroom, teachers need the skills, knowledge, and confidence to tackle corruption as a social and ethical problem. They also need time, for both lesson preparation and classroom instruction. As school systems grapple with curricular overload and competing priorities, educators may view values and integrity instruction as an add-on activity that makes them even busier than they already are. However, educators can make use of existing synergies within the curriculum to engage students on integrity and anti-corruption, reducing the pressure on teachers to squeeze in yet another course or lesson.

Concepts related to public integrity can be introduced into subjects such as civics or citizenship education – most obviously – but also into language, literature, even mathematics and science. UNESCO calls for including values and ethics education in science curricula because values such as objectivity, rationality, practicality, honesty, and accuracy are fundamental to science and scientific inquiry. When integrating ethics and anti-corruption material into other subject areas, educators should strive to ensure that there are clear learning outcomes on public integrity that are linked to the subject at hand.925bf7fb635d

Given the time constraints on classroom teachers, lessons should be easy to prepare and teach. Box 4 provides an overview of points for educators to keep in mind when developing lesson plans for education on public integrity.

Box 4: Developing lesson plans

Educators are most often attracted to lesson plans that are easy to use and require minimal preparation. Ideally, lesson plans:

  • Have specific, measurable, achievable, and relevant objectives
  • Clearly link lesson objectives to core curriculum objectives and learning outcomes
  • Have clear and simple procedures for implementation
  • Contain templates for student materials that do not take long to prepare
  • Are written at an appropriate level and use familiar contexts
  • Present content that interests students and encourages them to think critically
  • Contain guidance on how to evaluate student output

Source: OECD 2018a.

Provide effective teacher training

Teacher training specifically on integrity and anti-corruption can help ensure that teachers have the knowledge, skills, and competences to deliver such instruction before they enter the classroom. Berkowitz, Althof, and Jonesa00f4aca2f7f found that schools with effective character education programmes also had substantial professional development opportunities for teachers to assist them in implementation. So too, teacher training should be a core component of any programme of integrity and anti-corruption education.e245f742f0c1

Teacher training can take many forms, ranging from courses offered during teacher education programmes and professional training to seminars and resource kits prepared by government institutions and/or civil society actors. The available research, however, suggests that few countries offer integrity education programmes in teacher training institutes at the pre-service stage. Instead, most of the training is either conducted by an anti-corruption agency or provided through resource books or access to online material at the in-service stage. This training material tends to focus on content, emphasising what corruption is and how to combat it, as illustrated in Box 5.

Box 5: Training teachers for integrity

In the Slovak Republic, the Office of the Government, which is responsible for anti-corruption policies, organised training seminars for school leaders and teachers who were implementing anti-corruption education. The seminars were taught by anti-corruption and legal experts, including those from Office of the Government, the National Crime Agency, and the Special Prosecution Office (Office of the Government of the Slovak Republic 2017).

In the Czech Republic, the National Institute for Education uses a methodology portal to provide teachers with resources they can use to incorporate topics of corruption and ethics into the curriculum. Through the portal, teachers gain access to online meetings, seminars, workshops, model lessons, and other pedagogical instruments to increase their knowledge of the topics as well as methods and forms of instruction (UNODC 2017b).

Beyond equipping teachers with knowledge and skills, teacher training for integrity education should also enhance their moral reasoning. This can be achieved in part through courses that incorporate abstract and theoretical content and encourage teachers to stretch themselves cognitively through critical reflection. Teachers with higher levels of moral reasoning are those who can take the perspective of all members of society in considering what is fair.6c110f1f5fe8 Such teachers have a heightened awareness of their own moral and ethical responsibilities, which in turn can support them in addressing issues such as classroom fairness, distribution of resources, due process, and classroom discipline.068541b61b7a

Create an open school and classroom environment

Inside the school, educators need to ensure that the environment is open and encourages students to speak freely. As the saying goes, ‘values are caught, not taught,’ meaning that the environment in which students learn is as important as, if not more important than, the content of instruction. An open environment aims to model the expected behaviours and norms of a democratic society, which can encourage students to assimilate these values and practice future civic behaviour.245e88deba3e

Promote academic integrity in university policies and practices

Universities and colleges usually have the authority to determine what they teach, based on the principle of academic freedom. The central principle to keep in mind when considering the university curriculum is that academic integrity is the foundation for ethics and values education at tertiary level. Universities should therefore promote and maintain high standards of academic integrity in their policies and practices and work to create an enabling environment for integrity.

Faculty members can help students avoid fraudulent practices such as plagiarism by clearly showing students how to approach assignments and by encouraging reflection on the dangers of dishonesty.70d72123ac96 Academic integrity policies should be pasted on notice boards and disseminated as widely as possible. Exam question papers and scripts can reinforce the message. In addition, professors and instructors should emphasise the obligation of various professions to uphold integrity, and they should adhere to ethical principles in their own teaching and research.

The International Center for Academic Integrity (ICAI) encourages a culture of integrity in academic communities throughout the world. It offers assessment services, resources, and consultations to its member institutions and facilitates conversations on academic integrity topics at its annual conference. ICAIf17575286471 has developed an Academic Integrity Assessment Guide that helps institutions evaluate the effectiveness of their academic integrity programmes and policies; assess student and faculty attitudes and behaviour in classrooms, labs, and exams; identify potential concerns on matters ranging from educational programmes to sanctions for misconduct; and develop action plans to improve understanding of the importance of academic honesty and promote open dialogue about these issues on campus. A Model Code for Academic Integrity is available online.f001f34ad51f

Lecturers and professors at tertiary level have a certain degree of academic freedom to develop courses in their areas of expertise, provided they are consistent with departmental objectives outlined in accreditation documents. As mentioned before, many courses already have an ethics component that can be updated to include recommendations on the roles and obligations of professions. The UNODC Education for Justice (E4J) initiative website has a series of university modules on various integrity and anti-corruption topics available for free download. Existing modules can be enriched with practical components such as guest speakers, debates, conferences, and field trips. Internship guidelines and assessments should emphasise the importance of giving students the opportunity to handle ethical dilemmas.

Another factor to consider is the framework for governance of tertiary institutions in different countries. Political interference can lead to unethical decisions and behaviour in universities and colleges.95b65906a0b6 They should be insulated from such interference, and their academic freedom to conduct research and create knowledge should be respected. Universities require academic, financial, and organisational autonomy. Their internal quality assurance mechanisms should emphasise the importance of ethics and integrity in decision making and ensure that this cuts across courses on offer. There are various international initiatives to harmonise academic integrity and anti-corruption education that institutions can participate in. For more on this, see th U4 Issue on Corruption in universities: Paths to integrity in the higher education sector.

Suggestions for development partners and other actors

Teaching ethics and integrity makes a difference to students’ ethics, attitudes to integrity, and moral competence. Schools, universities, anti-corruption commissions, and multilateral bodies such as the UN and OECD have adopted a variety of approaches to teaching ethics and integrity. We already know something about ‘what works’ for teaching ethics and integrity: the evidence suggests that participatory and experiential learning, conducted in an open atmosphere that reflects the values that are being conveyed, is best. However, practitioners need to do more to monitor and evaluate their interventions systematically in order to strengthen the evidence base for best practices.

Education plays an important role in socialising children to become civic-minded adults who act with ethics and integrity. At the same time, young people also absorb values from their homes, families, and communities and from popular culture. This means that the schools can’t do it alone. Families and communities, as well as media houses and internet technology companies, also have a responsibility to promote ethics and integrity to young people.

Social norms are not static; they can and do change. Many countries have successfully changed norms around public littering, smoking, women’s suffrage, women in public office, sexual harassment, overt racism, and attitudes towards LGBT people and gay marriage – to name just a few. Such norm changes have been brought about in part through information and education campaigns and tireless activism. Public integrity education in schools and colleges must therefore proceed in tandem with civil society activism on integrity issues.

The following entities and sectors all can play a part in promoting public integrity education in schools and tertiary education institutions.

Bilateral and multilateral development agencies

Donors have substantial leverage to influence change in the education sector through their development assistance programmes. For instance, bilateral donors supporting human rights and citizenship education in schools can advocate for a holistic approach that includes ethics, integrity, and anti-corruption principles. Donors can encourage their partners to put in place monitoring and evaluation systems to build an evidence base on what works for public integrity education. They can also fund universities and research institutes to conduct research towards the same end.

Education ministries, curriculum development agencies, and higher education councils

At the primary-secondary level, integrating public integrity education into school curricula is usually the responsibility of the curriculum development agency, which is normally under the ministry of education. Agencies should review and update curricula to ensure that values and education are taught. At tertiary level, university and colleges require accreditation from the entities responsible for setting and regulating higher education standards. Such higher education councils are well placed to ensure that university and college degree programs that receive accreditation include public integrity education in their curricula.

National anti-corruption commissions

National anti-corruption commissions often have a public education mandate. They can work with education ministries, schools, colleges, and universities to promote public integrity education in the curriculum or through extracurricular activities.

Schools, universities, and colleges

Primary and secondary schools can adapt existing curricula to include integrity training, or offer it as an extracurricular activity. Towards this end, teacher training on integrity issues, both pre-service and in-service, is essential, along with provision of user-friendly teaching materials.

At the higher education level, integrity education should be mainstreamed in all courses. Specialised philosophy and ethics departments in universities can play an important role in research and publication on ethics issues, contributing to scholarship, curriculum development, and national debate. In many developing countries, ethics and philosophy departments are poorly funded and poorly staffed, or such programmes may be subsumed within other departments such as languages or humanities.f9878da80fb0

Multilateral institutions

UN agencies such as UNODC and UNESCO and multilateral institutions such as the OECD can work together to promote the harmonisation of ethical standards and curricula across countries, based on shared values that have been expressed in various international treaties such as the United Nations Convention against Corruption.

Business and the private sector

In addition to governmental and inter-governmental initiatives, partnerships with business and can help develop and support public integrity education. Because of the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention, businesses across the globe have made concerted efforts to improve ethics and integrity training in their organisations through compliance programmes. The GAN Business Anti-Corruption Portal offers free anti-corruption compliance and risk management resources, including e-learning and due diligence tools. These can be used and adapted for university education, post-graduate training, and further education for professionals.

Civil society organisations

Some civil society organisations and NGOs also have initiatives for public integrity education and provide curriculum assessment tools, manuals, and guides. Transparency International’s Teaching Integrity to Youth5055a53a78fb provides useful examples of how various civil society organisations have used human rights and civics education to teach the topic in different parts of the world. Aside from direct engagement in teaching, civil society organisations should advocate for the topic to be included in school curricula that currently lack it, and for effective public integrity education in schools and colleges.

Professional associations and regulatory councils

Associations of medical workers, accountants, lawyers, public administration officials, teachers, and other professionals can promote their codes of conduct as educational tools at the higher education level. They can partner with schools in career guidance events where ethics and integrity are emphasised as part of professional identity. Many professions also have international umbrella organisations that can help universalise ethical standards for professions. Examples include the International Bar Association, International Federation of Women Lawyers, International Association of Accounting Professionals, International Federation of Accountants, International Association of Engineers, and World Medical Association. Many of these associations promote ethics and integrity building for their members and can be partners in promoting public integrity education more broadly. For instance, the International Bar Association, in partnership with OECD and UNODC, is working towards an anti-corruption strategy for the legal profession. It aims to enhance the role of lawyers in combatting international corruption and mitigate their (advertent or inadvertent) third-party involvement in international bribery and other forms of corruption.42bb17e85b7c

At national level, professions are regulated by the government through councils or boards that are responsible for the licensing and registration of individual professionals, such as physicians, lawyers, and engineers, and of group practices. These councils and boards set standards for ethical behaviour and enforce national codes of conduct through fines, licence suspensions, and cancellations. They too can be important partners in promoting education on professional codes of conduct to students and in continuing education initiatives for qualified professionals.

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The authors thank Sarah Dix, Fredrik Galtung, and David Jackson for comments on earlier versions of this paper and Cathy Sunshine for her contribution towards finalising the paper.