Professor Dame Marie Bashir is indefatigable in her grassroots support of Australian communities and last Wednesday, March 7, her attention was on ethics classes in public schools.
Despite the loss of her husband Sir Nicholas Shehadie in recent weeks, Professor Bashir continues to dedicate an incredible amount of energy and time to supporting communities build on essential areas as education, health and international relations.
Professor Bashir joined former NSW Premier Nick Greiner and his partner Carolyn Fletcher to participate in an ethics class at Marie Bashir Public School.
Ethan Lee, 6, and Leia Ripley, 5, met the Professor as she arrived.
“It was lovely. She was nice and told me about when she was little and in school,” said Leia.
The program, run by not-for-profit group Primary Ethics, was established at the Professor’s namesake school in Term 2 last year.
Ethics classes are unique in that they offer children a chance to practice useful skills such as critical thinking and ethical reasoning. In ethics classes, students sit in a circle and discuss topics from the Primary Ethics curriculum. The facilitator is a trained volunteer, often a parent, grandparent or community member who assists the children to listen to each other and build on each other’s ideas.
Yesterday’s class, led by parent and volunteer Anna To, was on the topic Empathy. The special guests enjoyed being part of the class where the 5 to 7-year-olds used their imaginations to explore how others feel, which is an essential precursor skill to learning empathy.
“It is wonderful to see this psychological sophistication being introduced at such an early age,” Professor Bashir said after the class.
“Allowing the children to find and evaluate reasons themselves is a good skill to encourage.”
After the class, the guests joined a morning tea hosted by school principal Jacqui Attard in the staffroom. Gillian Wong, the school’s stage 2 ethics teacher, along with other volunteers, staff and parents from the school were in attendance.
Mr Greiner is a board member of Primary Ethics, and Ms Fletcher has worked with the school in recent months in a leadership program and in fundraising for Opportunity Cambodia, a children’s education charity of which she is founder and executive director.