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A Cross-National Study of Ethical School Culture

Summary and Keywords

This study addresses a common concept, ethical school culture, in 30 countries. It presents and outlines its dimensions, based on an analysis of their codes of ethics for teachers. The findings generated a multi-dimensional model of ethical school culture that included six dimensions: caring for the pupils, teachers' profession, teachers' collegial relationships, parental involvement, community involvement, and respecting rules and regulations.

The study indicated that “ethical school culture” generates from the interaction between the formal ethical aspects, such as educational policy that encourages high standards, and informal ethical aspects, such as ethical norms that perceive teachers’ role modeling as important for maintenance of the profession’s status. In addition, the findings elicited that schools with an ethical culture are not closed educational systems but rather open educational systems that ensure that knowledge will flow from the school to the community and vice versa. This flow of knowledge is in accordance with the ethical goals that advance equity and opportunity for all pupils.

Moreover, the similarity that exists between the dimensions in this study and the dimensions in the corporate ethical virtues (CEV) model expand conceptual validity to the generated multidimensional model. In general, this study reveals that schools have an ethical culture characterized by a teachers’ active approach toward promoting their pupils’ ongoing learning and well-being, initiating collaborative learning with colleagues, and promoting parental involvement.

This study generated the common meaning of ethical culture in schools, based on teachers’ interactions with colleagues, pupils, parents, community, and regulations. Understanding the meaning of an ethical culture in schools, can help promote ethical teachers, who will know what is expected from an ethical teacher and help promote an ethical culture in their schools. In addition, the findings of this study support the universal nature of the concept ethical school culture and provide deeper insight into the concept of ethical culture in educational systems. This study hopes to encourage the promotion of teachers’ continuing professional development, which focuses on the proposed six dimensions that can lead to a consistently applied ethical school culture.

Keywords: ethics, code of ethics, ethical school culture, teachers, cross-national perspective


There are two main approaches in comparative studies that focus on ethics and culture. One emphasizes the different ethical perceptions that are rooted in county culture, policy, and norms, and the other focuses on globalization through similarities in moral attitudes and behavior across countries (Shapira-Lishchinsky, 2018). With these approaches in mind, this study’s main goal was to explore a common concept, ethical school culture, The study aimed to present the meaning of the conceptand outline its dimensions based on an analysis of 30 codes of ethics for teachers that were developed in different educational systems in the world.

The sections below provide an overview of the following subjects: the international aspects of ethics, organizational culture, and codes of ethics for teachers. Then, this study presents the method and the findings that may provide a conceptual validity for this model. The discussion and the conclusions sections provides a multi-dimensional meaning for the concept of “ethical culture” in educational systems.

Theoretical Background

International Aspects of Ethics

One approach to the study of ethics is based on national culture, focusing on differences in moral perceptions and moral judgments found in cultures (Melé & Sánchez-Runde, 2013). According to this perspective, national culture is recognized as influencing ethical perceptions and behaviors in organizations (Minkov & Hofstede, 2011).

The second approach supports the notion of universalism vis-à-vis perception of ethics. Empirical studies have demonstrated that, beyond specific moral judgment, there are basic values underlying these judgments, and their common principles appear in the major traditions throughout the world (Terry, 2011; Tullberg, 2015).

Moreover, in the field of education, the research has concentrated on understanding cultural diversity in different countries concerning ethical issues, such as social justice (Banks, 2015), ethical dilemmas (Milner, 2010), and developing pupils’ potential (Klassen, Usher, & Bong, 2010). Other studies have investigated universalism and similarity, including human rights in educational systems (Stromquist & Monkman, 2014), reducing gaps (Zhao, 2010), and quality education (Wang, Lin, Spalding, Odell, & Klecka, 2011). Cognizant of these two opposite approaches to ethics in educational systems, the study presented here explored whether a universal meaning of “ethical school culture” would emerge in research that took a cross-national approach.

Ethical Culture

In the last decade, there has been an academic focus on the characteristics of organizational contexts that elicit unethical behaviors (Kish-Gephart, Harrison, & Treviño, 2010; O’Boyle, Forsyth, & O’Boyle, 2011). “Organizational culture,” often delineated by shared values, beliefs, and assumptions (Schein, 2010), is the informal control system of an organization, which comprises common traditions (Ruiz-Palomino & Martínez-Cañas, 2014). As a subset of organizational culture, the “ethical culture” (EC) of an organization can include the experiences, assumptions, and expectations concerning how the organization can encourage its members to behave in ethical ways (Trevino & Weaver, 2003). Therefore, EC can be defined as those aspects of the perceived organizational context that promote ethical behavior and reduce unethical actions.

Based on Kaptein’s (2011) work, EC in schools can be viewed as resulting from the interplay between the formal (e.g., educational policy, teacher’s codes of ethics) and informal systems (e.g., colleagues’ behaviors, norms concerning school ethics) that have the potential to increase teachers’ ethical behaviors among teachers. Based on previous research (e.g., Kish-Gephart et al., 2010), EC relates to what the organization is about in practice, pertaining to the conditions for ethical and unethical behavior.

Kaptain (2008a) refined the construct of EC by adding a number of normative dimensions. He focused on ethics in terms of their virtues and distinguished between the following virtues:

  1. 1. Clarity of ethical standards: concerns the extent to which ethical standards are expected to take root among leaders and their employees.

  2. 2. Ethical role modeling of management and supervisors: implies the extent to which leaders and supervisors serve as role models, in terms of ethics.

  3. 3. Feasibility: reflects the conditions created by the organization that can enable their workers to comply with normative expectations.

  4. 4. Supportability: is the extent to which the organization supports ethical conduct among its leaders and employees.

  5. 5. Transparency (visibility): reflects the degree to which the consequences of the conduct of leaders and their employees are perceptible.

  6. 6. Discussability: is the opportunity given to the organization’s employees to discuss ethical issues, such as ethical dilemmas or alleged unethical behaviors.

  7. 7. Sanctionability: is the extent of enforcement of ethical behavior achieved by meting out punishment for behaving unethically and rewarding ethical behavior.

Kaptein (2008a) devised the corporate ethical virtues (CEV) model based on these dimensions. He developed a self-report questionnaire that measures the ethical culture of organizations. The model has been validated in different countries among managers, employees, and university pupils. Results have come from countries, such as the United States (Kaptin, 2009, 2010), the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) (Mitonga-Monga & Cilliers, 2015), Malaysia (Sami, Jusoh, Mahfar, Qureshi, & Khan, 2016), the Netherlands (Kaptein, 2011), and Finland and Lithuania (Riivari & Lämsä, 2014).

However, while these studies have explored business and public organizations, in order to understand the meaning and to validate the dimensions of EC, the present study examined whether the notion of an “ethical school culture” could be generated from teachers’ codes of ethics. In order to accomplish this, an analysis was undertaken of these schools’ codes of ethics concerning the ethical conditions in the institutions. Support for the present study approach is found in Kaptein’s (2008b) research that developed the meaning of EC by focusing on stakeholders’ perspectives. His work, that explored business codes of ethics and actual cases, which included a variety of unethical employee behaviors caused by the organizational culture, brought mportant insights to light.

Kaptein (2004) was the first to collect and analyze the business codes of multinational companies. He explored 105 companies from 11 countries that had developed business codes of ethics (the United States, France, Germany, Japan, Switzerland, England, Italy, the Netherlands, South Korea, Canada, and Sweden). His multinational study generated a common meaning for EC that encouraged me to explore whether a shared cross-nationality meaning of EC could also be observed in educational systems.

Codes of Ethics for Teachers

A code of ethics is a document created by a professional association with the declared aim of providing guidance for their members, who are practitioners, protecting service users and safeguarding the reputation of the profession (Bullough, 2011). Codes of ethics are often developed on the basis of an intensive consultation process with internal and external stakeholders and with the support of academic experts and consultants (Shapiro & Gross, 2013; Singh, 2006). As a result, examining the content of codes of ethics can lead to understandings of stakeholders’ perceptions of the ethical culture. This can then serve as the foundation for developing and testing a measure for EC (Kaptein, 2008b; Treviño & Weaver, 2003).

In schools, the main aim of a teachers’ code of ethics is to suggest self-disciplinary guidelines to the teachers’ profession through the formulation of ethical norms and standards of professional conduct (Maxwell & Schwimmer, 2016). The codes may protect pupils from harm and teachers from the misconduct of other colleagues. Furthermore, they can help promote public trust and support for the profession of teaching (Poisson, 2009). In most countries, the codes of ethics for teachers have been developed and updated, based on organizational perspectives by stakeholders who have an interest in education. Stakeholders include governmental representatives, teachers unions’ representatives, school principals, and supervisors (Finefter-Rosenbluh, 2016).

Based on this theoretical background, it seems that a code of ethics for teachers may reflect ethical aspects in school practice, such as ethical policy, ethical norms, standards of professional conduct, expected shared values, and desired ethical behavior for teachers in their daily activities. By exploring these ethical codes, we can generate the meaning of the concept “ethical school culture” that may have relevance for schools across a variety of contexts.


Data Collection

Thirty available codes of ethics for educators from 39 randomly selected countries were analyzed. They were from Ireland, Canada, Korea, Australia, Hong Kong, South Africa, England, New Zealand, the United States, Singapore, Slovenia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Hungary, Lithuania, Norway, Italy, Turkey, Russia, Israel, Chile, Sweden, United Arab Emirates, Malaysia, Thailand, Chines Taipei, Malta, Japan, Botswana and Qatar.

In order to find the codes, the study approach was to search in the UNESCO collections, Ministry of Education websites, teacher unions’ websites, by sending emails to researchers focusing on exploring ethics in education, and contacted international researchers’ networks, such as the International Successful School Principalship Project (ISSPP). Then, the codes of ethics from different countries translated by professional translators into English and finally, educational researchers from these countries reviewed the English for clarification.

Data Analysis

The data analysis was based on qualitative thematic analysis (Ruppel Mey, 2015). All categories generated the central concept, a core category called “ethical school culture.” This category included a multiplicity of teacher interactions: with pupils, teachers, parents, community member, law enforcement officials, and in relation to school regulations.

In order to validate the findings, this study engaged in a cross-checking procedure of analysis in which the data were first independently analyzed by each member of the research team, and then the research team discussed together the emerged findings. Finally, in order to authenticate the analysis, a process of “member checking” was carried out. In other words, the research team have sent for review their findings to the researchers, educational leaders, and teachers in each country in order to confirm accuracy and learn if they have correctly understood the codes (Elo, Kääriäinen, Kanste, Pölkki, Utriainen, & Kyngäs, 2014).


Based on the 30 codes of ethics that were analyzed, this study elicited six major categories: “caring for the pupil,” “teachers' profession,” “collegial relationships,” “respecting rules and regulations,,” “parental involvement,” and “community involvement.” Figure 1 illustrates the major categories that emerged from the analysis that characterize the concept “ethical culture in schools.”

A Cross-National Study of Ethical School Culture

Figure 1. The multidimensional model of ethical school culture.

What follows are additional details and examples that come from the different code of ethics. In cases in which there was conceptual similarity between the emergent categories from this study and the dimensions of the CEV model, the findings were also compared to Kaptein’s (2008a) model.

Caring for Pupils

This major category elicited two main categories: the dominant one was pupils’ well-being, and the secondary one was developing pupils’ potential.

The Well-Being of Pupils


“We protect every pupil’s rights to education, where no single pupil feels discriminated against according to gender, religion, disability, age, ethnic group, and race” (Korean Federation of Teachers’ Associations, 2014).


“Standard 4. Create and maintain supportive and safe learning environments” (Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership, 2011).

The category of pupil well-being reflects characteristics of diversity, equality, and prevention of discrimination against certain social aspects, such as disability, gender, age, ethnic group, and race. This category also generated aspects of physical safety, such as supportive learning environments.

Developing Pupils’ Potential


“3.5 Educational professional practitioners shall encourage their pupils to achieve learning, skills and proper conduct to their full capability, in accordance with their roles and duties” (Government Gazette, 2005).


“1.10 Create learning experiences that motivate and challenge pupils in an inclusive setting with an engagement for lifelong learning” (Council for the Teaching Profession in Malta, 2012).

The sections in the category, “developing pupils’ potential,” elicited items that related to formal learning, such as engagement for lifelong learning, and informal learning processes, such as developing pupils’ motivation.

In general, the category of caring for the pupils had many sections that connected to the category “pupils’ well-being.” Given the salience of the sections that related to the category of “pupils’ well-being,” it was clear that the codes emphasize the importance of caring for the pupils’ well-being. A comparison between these finding and the dimensions of CEV model showed that there were no dimensions in the latter model that reflected caring for the pupils’ categories (see Table 1).

Table 1. Conceptual Affinity: A Comparison Between Dimensions

Major Category


Similar Dimensions (CEV Model)

Caring for the pupils

  • Pupil well-being

  • Developing pupils’ potential

  • Irrelevant

Teachers’ profession

  • Quality of education

  • Promoting and maintaining teachers’ status

  • Clarity

Collegial relationships

  • Caring for colleagues

  • Collaborative learning

  • Discussability

  • Supportability

Parental involvement

  • Informing parents

  • Respecting parents

  • Irrelevant

Community involvement

  • Community contribution to the school

  • School contribution to the community

  • Irrelevant

Respecting the law and regulations

  • Following the rules

  • Balancing autonomy and regulation

  • Sanctionability

  • Transparency

  • Feasibility

Teachers’ Profession

This major category generated two main categories: the dominant category was entitled “quality of education” and the secondary category was termed “promoting and maintaining teachers' status.”

Quality of Education


“3.1. Ensure that employed teachers have the appropriate qualifications and experience that at least meet the minimum standard”; “3.2. Provide the highest standard of education using appropriate pedagogy relevant to their pupils’ respective stages of learning” (Singapore Association for Private Education, 2013).


“1.1 Dedication to work, a sense of accountability in the job; high-quality work; providing a personal example” (Council of the OS, 2002).


“A commitment to ongoing professional learning is integral to effective practice and to pupils’ learning. Professional practice and self-directed learning are informed by experience, research, collaboration and knowledge” (Ontario College of Teachers, 1996).

The category of “quality of education” revealed aspects that related to meeting standards in teaching, having the necessary qualifications, accountability in the educational process, and teacher commitment to ongoing professional learning. When these results were compared to the CEV model, the findings indicated similarities with quality of education and “clarity,” which also focus on ethical standards that the employees—or teachers, in the present context—are expected to understand and follow. For example, in the CEV questionnaire, there is an item that state, “It is sufficiently clear how we are expected to responsibly conduct ourselves.”

Promoting and Maintaining Teachers’ Status


“4.1 The teacher strives to protect the reputation of his/her profession by ensuring that his/her work is professional and responsible” (Association of Catholic Pedagogues of Slovenia, 1997).


“Be a positive role model for pupils by: 2.1 Abstaining completely from alcohol, tobacco, and illegal drugs; 2.2 Demonstrating professionalism in speech by avoiding vulgar, profane and any form of unclean language; and 2.3 Following the China Horizons dress and grooming standards” (China Horizons, 2016).

The category generated aspects of protecting the reputation of the teaching profession, based on the teachers’ professional work in school, and the importance of the teacher being a role model outside of school. While the category of promoting and maintaining teachers’ status focuses on role modeling, the dimension “ethical role modeling,” found in the CEV model, focuses on the leader as a role model.

Collegial Relationships

This major category yielded two main categories; the dominant category was termed “caring for colleagues,” and the secondary one was termed “collaborative learning.”

Caring for Colleagues

South Africa

“6. [. . .] avoid any form of humiliation and refrain from any form of abuse (physical, sexual, or other) toward colleagues” (South Africa Council for Education, 2000).


“2.8 . . . [the teacher] creates and participates in a culture of positive cooperation where all opinions are treated seriously” (Union of Education, 2002).

The category of “caring for colleagues” reflects the notions that schools should encourage concern for their pupils, as well as care for the teachers. Both populations should be treated in a just and equitable manner. Furthermore, the ethical culture should ensure that no one suffers from humiliation.

Collaborative Learning Between Colleagues


“3.1 [It is] the duty and commitment of each teacher to help create fruitful relationships, rooted in respect, as well as promote a strong spirit of cooperation, [. . .] formal collegiality, exchange of experiences and ideas, in order to build a real scientific and professional community of teachers.” (CCNL, 1999).


“[Teachers should] reflect on their practice and use feedback from colleagues to help them recognize their own development needs” (General Teaching Council for England, 2009).

This category focuses on teachers supporting one another. This process is characterized by teachers’ promotions of collaborative learning in a variety of forums. Moreover, teachers’ collegial relationships are further reflected in informal ways, such as respect of colleagues’ ideas.

While comparing the category “collaborative learning between colleagues” that was found in this study, with dimensions in the CEV model, the findings elicited a similarity between the study concept and two CEV dimensions. The first one is “disscussability,” which reflects the opportunity to discuss ethical issues with colleagues (for example, in the CEV questionnaire, there is an item: “In my immediate work environment, there is ample opportunity for discussing moral dilemmas”). The second dimension is “supportability” that deals with collegial support and respect of one another (for example, in the CEV’s questionnaire, there is a statement: “In my immediate work environment, everyone is totally committed to the norms and values of the organization.”)

Parental Involvement

This major category generated two main categories: the dominant category was “informing parents ” and the secondary category was “respecting parents.”

Informing Parents


“4.2 . . . work together with and consciously inform parents about the pupil’s situation, well-being and acquisition of knowledge” (National Agency for Education, 2011).


“We should work together with our parents to protect young people from harm and, at the same time, create a new healthy culture” (Japan Teachers’ Union, 1972).

The numerous sections that address pupils’ well-being, in comparison to the few sections that address pupils’ formal learning, in the category of “informing parents,” highlighted the fact that the teachers’ codes of ethics emphasized the importance of teachers informing parents about their children’s well-being, rather than informing them what their children learned.

Respecting Parents


“3.1 . . . to respect the sole responsibility of parents toward their children;” “3.3 . . . to treat all information supplied by parents as confidential;” “3.5 . . . to avoid using parents’ social and economic status for personal gain;” “3.6 . . . avoid using inappropriate remarks concerning behavior that can affect the pupils’ confidence in their parents or guardians (Ministry of Education in Malaysia, 2014).


“2.3 The basis of the teacher’s relationship with parents is founded on mutual respect, trust and appreciation” (National Education Committee, 2015).

As in the case of the category, “pupils’ well-being” includes aspects of respecting pupils. Based on the codes of ethics, this category generated the idea that teachers should care and respect the pupils and their parents’ attitudes and culture. When comparing the category, “parental involvement,” to the dimensions in the CEV model, we did not find similar dimensions.

Community Involvement

This major category generated two main categories: the dominant category was entitled “school contribution to the community” and the secondary category was termed “community contribution to the school.”

School Contribution to the Community


“2.1 to work with a more effective and efficient service public education . . . with children, pupils, colleagues, parents, and advocacy and professional organizations” (National Education Committee, 2015).


“The teachers have the task to protect peace, promote independence of ethnic groups, and create a democratic society, based on the constitution” (Japan Teachers Union, 1972).

Community Contribution to the School

New Zealand

“4.3 fostering and understanding the role of the Treaty of Waitangi and its implications, in the learning environment” (Education Council, New Zealand, 2017).


“. . . take responsibility for upholding its (community) reputation and building trust and confidence in it” (General Teaching Council for England, 2009).

The major category of community involvement includes mutual relationships: it includes aspects of how a school can contribute to the community and how the community can contribute to the school. No similar dimensions were found in the CEV model. In general, the study indicated that the codes of some countries—e.g., Sweden and Japan—focus only on parental involvement. However, most countries, such as Malaysia and Hungary, address both parental and community involvement. However, no country focuses solely on community involvement. These findings suggest that the dimension of “parental involvement” takes precedence over the dimension of “community involvement” among educational stakeholders.

Respecting the Law and Regulations

This major category uncovered two main categories: the dominant category was termed “following the rules” and the secondary category was termed “balancing between teacher’s autonomy and regulations.”

Following the Rules


“3.4 Comply with agreed-upon national and school policies, procedures and guidelines that aim to promote the pupil’s education and welfare, and child protection” (The Teaching Council, 2016).

United Arab Emirates

“Educators will abide by government laws and regulations at all times and will be obligated to report violations of these laws to the appropriate authorities. Professional Conduct includes, but is not limited to: 5.1 Educators, will be honest and maintain integrity in dealing with all official work. 5.2 Educators will be familiar with the provisions of legislation and/or policies relevant to their official responsibilities; Prohibited unprofessional conduct includes, but is not limited to: 5.3 Falsifying, misrepresenting, omitting, or erroneously reporting professional qualifications or employment history” (Abu Dhabi Education Council, 2009).

This category revealed that while most of the ethical codes of the countries explain the reasoning behind the need to obey the law (for example, in Ireland, in order to promote pupil’s education, and to ensure welfare and protection), a few countries do not explain the reasoning (e.g., United Arab Emirates).

Finding the Balance Between Personal Ideas and Following Regulations


“4.1. . . balancing between their autonomy and professional responsibility; 4.2. The teacher shall ensure full autonomy by respectful communication with the public authority” (Ethics Commission, 2003).

The United States

“2.9 The professional educator complies with written local school policies and applicable laws and regulations that are not in conflict with this code of ethics” (Association of American Educators, 1994).

The category of balancing teachers’ ethical beliefs with the school’s regulations illuminates the fact that, on the one hand, teachers are encouraged to prioritize their ethics and autonomy, while, on the other, they are also expected to obey regulations.

When comparing the major category entitled “respecting rules and regulations” with the dimensions in the CEV model, similarities were found. These included “sanctionability,” which deals with the enforcement of ethical behaviors. For example, in the CEV questionnaire, there was an item: “In my immediate work environment, employees will be disciplined if they behave unethically.” The category of “transparency,” which focuses on the consequences of the employees’ behavior. For example, in the CEV questionnaire, there was an item: “If a colleague does something which is forbidden, my manager will find out about it.” Finally, there was “feasibility,” which focuses on balancing between self-autonomy and regulation. For example, one item in the CEV questionnaire states: “I’m sometimes asked to do things that conflict with my conscience.”

Table 1 summarizes the comparison between the dimensions that were found in this study and the dimensions of the CEV model. The table presents three of the six major categories that are conceptually similar to six dimensions in the CEV model. As could be expected, the categories that specifically related to educational systems, such as “caring for the pupils,” “parental involvement,” and “community involvement,” were not found in the CEV model. Furthermore, the dimension “ethical role modeling of the management and supervisors” in the CEV model did not have conceptual similarity with the dimensions that were generated from the study analyses of the teachers’ ethical codes.


This article discussed the meaning of the concept EC in schools, which emerged from an analysis of teachers’ ethical codes. The study, which analyzed codes developed in 30 countries, argued that the codes of ethics reflected the concept of an “ethical school culture,” given that the codes were developed by different stakeholders. The study employed a cross-national perspective and focused on common values found in codes from developed countries (Ireland, Canada, Korea, Australia, Hong Kong, England, New Zealand, the United States, Singapore, Norway, Italy, Turkey, Israel, Sweden, Japan), as well as from developing countries (South Africa, Slovenia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Hungary, Lithuania, Russia, Chile, United Arab Emirates, Malaysia, Thailand, Chines Taipei, Malta, Botswana, and Qatar).

The generated multidimensional model gained support from previous research, such as the work carried out by Schwepker (2001), Kaptein (2011), Ruiz-Palomino and Martínez-Cañas (2014), and Maxwell and Schwimmer (2016). This multidimensional model shows that focusing on teachers’ codes of ethics can broaden the understanding of EC. More specifically, the results shed more light on the dimensions of “ethical culture.” The multi-dimensional model generated major categories specific to educational systems. These included parental and community involvement and the promotion and maintenance of the teachers’ status, dimensions that did not appear in the CEV model. The multi-dimensional structure of ethical school culture yielded six major categories found in almost every code of ethics analyzed: caring for the pupils, teachers' profession, collegial relationships, parental involvemen, and respecting rules and regulations.

The first dimension of the school ethical culture was caring for the pupils. The findings showed that caring for the pupils primarily focuses on caring for the well-being of the pupil rather than on their learning potential. Moreover, the results demonstrated that there is an expectation that the teachers’ role is not simply to impart academic knowledge to pupils but also to engage in behavior that can help increase pupils’ well-being. In addition, the findings revealed that stakeholders in education expect that developing pupils’ potentials, in formal and informal ways, can help children and adolescents develop creative thinking by generating supportive and safe learning environments that may encourage pupils’ ideas and innovations.

The second dimension of ethical school culture was the perceived teachers’ profession. This finding reflects that stakeholders in educational systems expect teachers to promote ethics in educational systems by meeting high standards, being accountable for the educational process, and demonstrating commitment to ongoing professional learning. This dimension also includes aspects of promoting and maintaining teachers’ status by protecting the teaching reputation and by providing a role model both at school and beyond the confines of its walls.

These findings gain support from previous studies (e.g., Kaptein, 2011), which revealed that EC in educational systems results from the interplay between the formal ethical aspects, such as educational policy that encourages high standards, and informal ethical aspects, such as ethical norms that perceive teachers’ role modeling as important for maintenance of the profession’s status.

The third dimension of ethical school culture was teachers’ collegial relationships, which reflect the promotion of collaborative learning between colleagues. According to the codes of ethics analyzed for the study, collaborative learning may help foster support between colleagues while dealing with ethical aspects, such as inequality among pupils. This dimension also includes ethical aspects of caring for colleagues, such as ensuring just and equitable treatment of colleagues, positive cooperation between colleagues, in which all opinions are treated with respect, and honoring the discretion and privacy of their colleagues. The fourth dimension of ethical school culture was parental involvement. This dimension includes caring for the pupils by informing parents not only about their children’s academic status, but also about their well-being.

In addition, this dimension includes respecting parental responsibility and promising confidentiality. Previous studies (Epstein, Galindo, & Sheldon, 2011; Lawson, 2003) indicated that while teachers perceive parents to be important agents for developing and empowering children, in practice they are often hesitant to solicit parental involvement because they fear the parents will interfere with their work. These studies help explain the results that concerned the message to teachers that they should promote parental involvement. Such behavior can help close the gap that exists between teachers’ understandings of the contribution of parental involvement and teachers’ initiatives in the school that actually encourage that sort of involvement.

The fifth dimension also includes community involvement, such as school contribution to the community by promoting a democratic community and preparing pupils to work in the community. This dimension also includes characteristics, such as community contribution to the school. For example, the codes offer suggestions for the promotion of equal opportunity by encouraging the running of school programs supported by the community, offering professional help in school decision-making and actions, helping schools uphold their reputations and building community trust and confidence in the educational system. The results showed that these two dimensions testify to the fact that schools with an ethical culture are not closed educational systems but rather open educational systems that ensure that knowledge and information will flow from the school to the community and vice versa. This flow of knowledge and information is, furthermore, in accordance with the ethical goals that promote equity and opportunity for all pupils.

The sixth dimension of ethical school culture considers aspects of respecting the law and school regulations. This final dimension generated ethical aspects, such as abiding by the rules, since the rules are seen as a means to protect the human rights of the pupils and the teachers. An ethical school culture can also be characterized by teachers’ abilities to find a balance between their independence and the schools’ rules, when teachers perceive a conflict or tension between them. As a result, schools promote an ethical school culture when they prioritize safeguarding the teachers’ conscience and professional ethics. This reinforces the understanding that, in an ethical culture, teachers are encouraged to behave according to their ethical understandings while following the rules. In the event that a conflict arises, between the rules and a teacher’s conscience, the teachers in a school characterized by an ethical culture are encouraged to be proactive and find a solution that will allow them to both follow the rules and regulations and behave according to personal values and ethics.

Some of the generated major categories from the present study (teachers’ profession, collegial relationship, respecting the law) were found in Kaptain’s (2008a) CEV model. The dimension in the CEV, similar to the study findings, was clarity, which emphasized expectations regarding employee conduct. Clarity was found in the subcategory of standards in teaching, which reflected aspects of high standards of practice in relation to pupils’ learning, planning, and assessment. An additional dimension, feasibility, which reflected a moral conflict, meshed with the category balancing between self-autonomy and regulations.

The subcategory of supporting learning reflected supportability of ethical conduct among employees, which includes commitment to normative expectations and the extent to which the organization stimulates this. Transparency, which focuses on the consequences of the behavior of managers and workers, is similar to the category, following the rules, in order not to abuse (e.g., as was found in Hungary) or in order to promote pupil’s education and welfare (e.g., as reflected in the Irish code of ethics).

Discussability emphasizes the ability to talk about ethical issues. In this study of the codes of ethics, the category collaborative learning between colleagues, also deals with the opportunity that teachers have to discuss ethical issues with one another. Finally, sanctionability addresses meting out punishment for unethical behavior and rewarding people who act in an ethical manner. The present study found a similar category, which was termed the main category respecting the law and regulations.

As presented earlier, this study generated similarity between the study findings and most of the dimensions in the CEV model (clarity, feasibility, supportability, transparency, discussability, and sanctionability). However, the present study did not find the dimension of ethical role modeling of supervisors and management that is in the CEV model. Instead, our research found a focus on the role modeling of teachers as a means to promote and maintain the status of the teaching profession. It seems that the educational stakeholders who developed the codes of ethics perceive the school’s ethical culture as primarily depending on the behavior of the teachers rather than on the role-modeling of their school principals or supervisors.

In addition, categories that appeared in this study did not appear in the CEV model, such as caring for the pupils, parental involvement, and community involvement. These findings can be explained by the fact that the codes of ethics analyzed solely apply to the educational systems. In addition, the similarity that exists between the dimensions in the present study and the dimensions in the CEV model extend conceptual validity to our generated multidimensional model. In general, this study demonstrates that schools have an ethical culture characterized by a teachers’ active approach toward promoting their pupils’ ongoing learning and well-being, initiating collaborative learning with colleagues, and promoting parental involvement.

In essence, this study elicited an active approach toward equality and equity surfaces in all school ethical culture dimensions. It was found in the categories of:

  • Pupil caring, by developing the pupil’s potential and expressing concern about their well-being

  • Teachers’ profession, by encouraging high standards in education that include teaching pupils with disabilities

  • Collegial relationship, by ensuring equity for and equal treatment of all other teachers and by teachers’ collaborative learning to reduce gaps among pupils

  • Parental involvement by considering parental socio-economic status

  • respecting the law and school regulations, by abiding by rules and regulations that protect the rights of teachers and pupils.

In sum, the study generated the common meaning of ethical culture in schools, based on teachers’ interactions with colleagues, pupils, parents, community, and law and regulations. Moreover, this study provided a broad view of the meaning of an ethical school culture that appeared across 30 countries. It seems that understanding the meaning of an ethical culture in schools, including its dimensions, can help develop ethical teachers, who will know what is expected from an ethical teacher and help promote an ethical culture in their schools.

Conclusions, Future Studies, and Implications

This article generated a multidimensional model of the aspects inherent in an ethical school culture. Six dimensions of ethical school culture are relevant for understanding ethical behavior in schools. Greater insight into the ethical school culture concept provides opportunities to improve it and, as a result, possibly lower the frequency of unethical behavior. A school’s EC is an important factor in understanding and explaining ethical and unethical behavior and for designing educational policy.

The article’s focus on the generation of common categories that characterize ethical school culture across a variety of countries justified adoption of the universal approach. In future studies it would be interesting to compare developed countries and developing countries to learn how national cultures can affect thedevelopment of ethical codes and consequently influence ethical school culture.

Moreover, while developing codes of ethics for teachers, no country mentioned that these codes for teachers could reflect and even promote the EC in schools. Therefore, there appears to be a lack of awareness concerning the impact of codes of ethics in educational systems. It is hoped that the study’s findings will bolster awareness that teachers’ codes of ethics have the potential to promote ethical school cultures in schools. By leading teachers’ educational programs that focus on developing or updating codes of ethics for teachers, we can promote awareness of the concept ethical culture in school. This can help turn an ethical culture into practice. As a result, their ethical behavior may promote ethical culture in schools. This educational process can also clarify the ethical expectations on the part of the school, which can help teachers better understand their complex roles and bolster ethical behavior.


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