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According to Educational Council of Aotearoa New Zealand (2004) the overall purposes of the Code of Ethics for Registered Teachers is to:

• clarify the ethics of the profession,
• inspire the quality of behaviour which reflects the honour and dignity of the profession,
• encourage and emphasise those positive attributes of professional conduct that characterise strong and effective teaching,
• enable members of the profession to appraise and reflect on their ethical decisions.

The New Zealand Teachers Council Code of Ethics published in 2004 was based on the aspirational behaviour of teachers, governed by the four ethical principles of autonomy, justice, responsible care and truth and the four moral commitments to learners, parents / whanua, to society and to the profession.

Snook (2005) was critical of this final version arguing that all the negatives had been taken out and replaced by positive demands that themselves have been softened. Instead of the bald "Teachers will ... " we now have the softer "Teachers will strive to ... and those who worry about ethical behaviour could see the code as inadequate. Another example was that "Teachers will teach these positive values which are widely accepted in society ... " and "encourage [students] to examine them critically" becomes (more cautiously) "and encourage learners to ... critically appreciate their significance" Snook (February, 2005). Snook called it bland and inadequate. Bourke and O'Neil (2010) suggests that as a Code grounded in principles and commitments, not rules, it neither prescribes or proscribes particular teaching behaviour. The complex nature of ethical dilemmas, the significant learning and experience required to develop the capacity to resolve difficult dilemmas, the pressure of accountability and lack of time to truly reflect on situations often means that the resolution is not resolved in a morally justifiable manner Atkin (2012).

Dilemmas are complex and difficult to resolve satisfactorily for all parties, with school norms, previous experience, current context, personal values and beliefs of all those involved, are all influencing factors. Having said that, having a code of conduct reminds me that the guiding principle for reasoned decision making is in the best interests of the learner. The Teachers Code of Ethics based on the four ethical principles of, Autonomy, Justice, Responsible care and Truth reflect the norms of society. The code is not a set of rules intended to be applied to each and every situation as each situation is contextually different. There will be no single correct resolution to some issues, however, justifying one’s actions in accordance with the principles of the code is vital.

Atkin, G.M. (2012). Difficult dilemmas: How are they resolved by secondary school middle managers?

Bourke, R., & O'Neil, J. (2010). Professional development for ethical teaching. Retrieved from:

Education Council of Aotearoa New Zealand. (2015). Code of Ethics for Certified Teachers. Retrieved from

Ivan Snook: Watered-down ethics code for teachers is inadequate. (2005, February 16). New Zealand Herald. Retrieved from

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