Sampling of teaching programs

In order to facilitate the development of programs, the comparison of programs, and the possible certification of programs, it is necessary to make a collection of existing teaching programs in ethics. In this way, experiences can be sampled, compared and exchanged. It is important to collect samples of programs not only in bioethics (as taught in medical schools or nursing schools) but also in other areas of ethics, such as environmental ethics and science ethics (as taught in science schools and humanities departments).

The samples collected will, after validation, be introduced into the Global Ethics Observatory (GEObs). Special forms have been developed in order to obtain standardised and comparable data concerning teaching activities. The forms have been and will be distributed among the experts identified in various groups of Member States with the invitation to make a detailed description of their programs. Five special forms have been designed, according to the various levels of ethics teaching: in graduation programmes, in master programmes, in professional training programmes, in specialization programmes and in doctorate programmes.

When experts who are actually teaching ethics within a university setting are identified within groups of countries, they are invited to take part in regional meetings. The standardised programme descriptions are being discussed in these meetings.

Following these expert meetings, all program descriptions are reviewed and revised. The final versions are subject to validation. If validated they are entered into Database 3: Ethics Teaching Programmes of the Global Ethics Observatory (GEObs).


  1. For many experts it is the first time that they are asked to make a standardized description of their program(s). It is also frequently the case that information concerning programs is not exchanged with colleagues. Ethics teaching programs are in some cases regarded as “classified material”; they seem to depend on the creativity and expertise of an individual professional teacher. The view that one can learn from experiences of colleague-teachers, or can get new ideas and inspiration, or improve the substance of programs, is not common in the area of ethics teaching.

  2. Meetings of experts to discuss program descriptions are interesting because of the differences among member states. It is not always easy to provide exact data in the standardized forms. During the meetings, data can be clarified and discussed, difficulties identified and problems discussed with colleagues. With the empirical data obtained and clarified, the next step can be taken: exploring what will be necessary for the future, and how UNESCO can help to promote ethics teaching. Since often experts in ethics teaching are meeting for the first time and learn about each others programs, this can create opportunities for future cooperation.

  3. One observation during the meetings was the absence of cooperation between nations in the domain of ethics teaching. International cooperation of experienced teachers in neighboring countries could create programs with more impact and sustainability, but the awareness and willingness to work together in this area need further stimulation. One result of the meetings can be the creation of a network; another one the initiation of cooperation in order to develop a regional program with several universities in different countries. Such networks and forms of cooperation can also specifically attend to the problems and issues that are relevant for the countries involved.

Master Programs in Bioethics
Today, the number of universities offering master programs in bioethics is increasing. An overview shows that most programs exist in developed countries. Most programs are taught in English, usually over a period of one or two years if taught fulltime.

New regional meetings
In 2008 and 2009, new regional experts meetings will be scheduled for the Magreb countries and Africa, in order to map the teaching experiences on the African Continent.

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