Democratic Values



Democratic Values

Adapting to Africa

Virtual Education Center (VEC)


Scholars have begun ratifying what some practitioners have long seen: social and economic development is about values and virtues, and schools are vital for transmitting them. Alive to the World / AW, a character development program based on universally honored values, can make a huge impact on development, worldwide. It is unique in that it is intensive (1 hr/wk, 35 wks), extensive (grades 1-12), and based on an ongoing story of friends who grow up as the reader does and who get in and out of situations that the student identifies with.

The program is successful. Since 2001, ALAFA has sold—with discounts for needy schools—260,000 copies of the books that AW is centered on. In 11 countries of Latin America, 65,000 young people now follow the program, almost all of them during school hours. In the U.K., a test phase has 1,000 students. The story methodology lends itself to transmitting all the universally accepted values and showing that they form a logical, coherent whole. It is also made for class discussion, for which we have to train the teachers because it is not common in their schools.


A third-party evaluation of AW funded by the John Templeton Foundation and the United States Agency for International Development indicates that AW improves children’s attitudes toward values that AFF calls “democratic” for short: fair play,




teamwork, personal responsibility, as well as respect for others’ opinions, for the fundamental equality of all, and for the differences that make each of us unique. There are 3 years of data from 8,000 Peruvian and Venezuelan 3rd to 7th graders.


Researchers have so far analyzed 6,000 sets of answers to questionnaires administered before and after they participated in AW for one year, finding “strong initial evidence” that the program transmits democratic values. (In addition, school principals credit AW for dramatic declines in misbehavior and violence in their classrooms and hallways.) An article about this study is at Our Program / Evaluations and Testimonials.


There is a need to digitize and analyze the remaining data sets—most of the children filled out surveys online, but many had to use pencil and paper. It is expected that there will be time-series data from a sufficient number so that the researchers can evaluate the cumulative effect of two or three years of following AW. They will compare the two countries and perform other analyses. The cost of completing this Democracy Project will be $19,000. AFF invites individuals, companies, and other institutions to join this effort to document and publicize an effective way to transmit universal values to children.

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