This is the inaugural conference organised for Character and Citizenship Education. The theme is, Citizens of Character.
The 1½ day conference started off with DGE's keynote (opening) address, that connected us to the matter dear to everyone of us - our rootedness, to self, to our country - it all started with SELF, and it's not just we remember it, but it's a matter of practising it (walking the talk) and creating opportunities for the pupils to practise it!
She recapped: CCE is the fundamental aspect of Singapore's Education System adn it exists for a long time. That reminded me of the 生活教育 (Education for Living, EfL) in my primary School Days (yes, I always look forward to those lessons - not much of content, but it was able to connect us to the happenings around us, getting to know the society and yes, that's when I learnt the existance of the ASEAN). 好公民 - that's what I saw among my younger brother's textbooks. Being and Becoming. Religious Studies in my upper secondary days - yes, but sadly, the impression of the subject is... it's one subject that's so easy to score... how about the value part? Hm... think my teachers had not been successful to bring that across... just wondering.. Now Civics and Moral Education... and this was followed by a series of programmes - National Education (NE), Community Involvement Programme (CIP), etc... and yes, heard of character education... though not explicitly, but there was increased emphasis on elements of Character Education when Mr Chua took over the leadership. It was not that there was a lack of emphasis in the past... but it's the positioning... oh yes, looking back, in fact, there are elements of CE in the old Elements of Office Administration curriculum - where we emphasis good traits of a member in a unit, service excellence and integrity, etc...
Yes, so much programmes were introduced to schools... But it's really the first time when someone puts everything into one - all those seemingly compartmentalised programmes seem to be connected overnight! Yes, all these go into developing oneself into good citizens - one who possess and practise the right values, of good character and let these "goods" propagate!
I can't agree more... we would have failed even if our students (even ourselves) could score full marks when 'tested' yet we do not practise. It's really a matter of getting the values internalised and translate them into our beliefs, our behaviours and actions!
DGE also pointed out one very true fact that many of us failed to see - the set of Values and Traits we want to inculcate is the same (it's timeless), but as the world, the make-up of the environment changes, they could be manifested in different forms, and of course, we are also working against the kind of (new) challenges faced by today's students! The magic formula we had in the past does not necessary work... We have to think of new ways! Take into consideration other factors... culture has changed over time... etc... Yes, this is also the biggest challenge of educators today (as educators were brought up in different environment), they have to be sensitive to the current environment.
That reminded me once Mr Chua told the SCC a few years ago - the teachers we receive from NIE in the recent years come with different set of values, and the way they see things or behave differs from us... Like it or not - we are not just dealing with students of different generation, but also teachers!
3 points raised by DGE:
- Integrity and Honesty: When the pace of life quickens, there's a growing tendency to take shortcuts to achieve what's targetted at. Think! Are these means ethical? What are the options? What principles do we base on when making a decision?
- Compassion: The growing divide between the Rich and Poor? The rich gets richer... The poor gets poorer (by default, they might not have become poorer, but the baseline has raised)
- Respect: How this comes in when society becomes more diverse?
To caution us, DGE put it across as: MINDS - MORALS = MENANCE
Smart + Good is not enough, but also CITIZENS of Character who thrive and contribute - there, the sense of rootedness and being resilient, gracious, and remember, to reciprocate by giving back to society.
There comes the ABC of Character Education:
- Anchor in Values
- Bring values into action
- Contribute to society
Anchor in Values
- What values should school teach? and whose values does the school teach? This could be controversial.
- 6 core values - R³ICH - Respect, Responsible, Resilence, Integrity, Care, Harmony. In fact, harmony is especially emphasis because of the Singapore context - when we are vulnerable to conflicts among the different make-ups of our country.
- NE messages - How we can hold together as a country; and being competitive as a country
- School Values - which, more often than not overlaps with the core values. School values, on one hand share the common grounds (with the overarching core values), yet there are emphasis on those that are dear to the school's heart, to remain distinctive.
Bring Values into Action
- Values are to be internalised through practice.
- What are the opportunities available for pupils to practise - through CCA, PW, Fun fair, etc...
- Equipping pupils with social emotional competencies (SEL) - to raise their self-awareness and being able to self-manage one's desire, to heighten social awareness and being able to manage relationships.
- Eg. Children lack the competency to acknowledge mistake and apologise with sincerity.
Contribute to Society
- 5Cs: Compassion, Care, Courage, Charity and Commitment
- Pupils need to learn to put values into action
- Payback, Pay forward; Community Involvement Programmes
The emphasis is therefore: Pupils are immersed in the experience, not the activity.
The 5 Ps of Character and Citizenship Education:
- Pupil, our focus: The belief that every pupil can learn - every pupil can be good; Nurturing character takes time and therefore should avoid quick fixes.
- Creating a Holistic Experience: Hidden curriculum is to inculculate values! The moral climate of the school matters! 2 perspectives - to be taught or to be caught ($5 bill illustration) - are Unacceptable behaviours in school pervasive?
- Partnership - engaging home and community: To seek alignment of values; garner support and establish partnership. Find out from parents: Is there anyway we could find out what kind of children they wish to have? Feedback to parents: Not just academic performance, but also their character and citizenship development.
- Providing Professional Support (Professional Development)
- Having Clarity of Purpose: Whole school approach; Clarity of purpose and Unity of purpose. Who own the interest? Everybody in the school!
Click HERE to see exhibits by some schools.