The 21st Century is considered an era where diversity is a key feature

The 21st Century is considered an era where diversity is a key feature as individuals share their culture and mix together with others due to technological advancements such as the Internet and improved transportation services (Larmore 2008).  People are also migrating from one location to the next in search of better employment opportunities and better living standards thus carrying with them different values, religious beliefs, lifestyles and behaviors to their destinations.  Majority of academic institutions in this day and age are making efforts of fostering character and citizenry among students as a way of preparing them for the future (Winton 2008).  This has witnessed the introduction of Character and Citizenship Education, also known as CCE, in schools where students can engage in the development of knowledge, skills, abilities and values that will help them become responsible and useful citizens of good behavior in the future (Tan & Chong 2007).

While character education is a national movement that tends to establish schools that foster responsible, caring and ethical young individuals through teaching and modeling good behavior by emphasizing on universal values that people share, citizenship education is mainly concerned with preparing young individuals for their responsibilities as well as roles as citizens especially the role of education in that preparatory process (Ryan & Lickona 1992).  Character and values education development normally takes place over a given period of time within numerous environments.  Considering the fact that family members are the first people with whom an individual comes into contact this particular influence is thus important in as far as a child’s character and values development is concerned (Noddings 2002).

  1. A. Banks (1998) developed a model that would enable academic institutions and especially teachers to better understand the way CCE is designed and implemented in schools while examining whether or not the current approaches being implemented are effective in today’s fast changing global age (Ryan & Lickona 1992). The Curricular Integration Model allows teachers and academic institutions to superficially include ethnic and cultural groups into the curriculum through provision of exposure to such highlights achieved of these particular groups.

Findings

The research study incorporated two schools as the sample, school N and E, where students and teachers were used as respondents in investigating the CCE programme as designed and implemented in their schools.  Some of the research methods used included interviews and questionnaires where in the case of questionnaires, the students and school staff were required to hand over the answered sheets after three days, considering the fact that it was an academic institution.  Data was collected from the students and staff of the chosen schools.  In this study School N has put a lot of emphasis on Asian values because of its profile.

The schools in this research study achieved the CDA award and award that accredit schools for putting sound systems, efforts and policies in character development despite the fact that it does not measure the quality of character thus explaining the reason as to why certain curriculum, programmes and structures are already in place (Winton 2008).  The main question lies in the manner in which robust is the curriculum in adapting to the challenges brought about by globalization.  Children therefore need to be prepared by CCE to make good moral choices as well as deliberate critically on contentious issues.    From the example provided of character and citizenship education in Singapore, it is evident that the nation has made great efforts in the recent past to reject Western values and instead emphasize on their cultural values by introducing mother tongue languages into their curriculum (Noddings 2002).

Western values are considered a national threat and destabilize of Singapore’s societal values.  By conveying Asian values as a way of providing cultural ballast to the influence of the Western values, Singapore has developed an idea that moral values together with what is seen as right conduct essential to being a good citizen (Tan & Chong 2007).  Findings have also revealed that Singapore has introduced National Education as a way of seeking to develop in students what the nation’s government perceives as important areas of values, skills and development of a participative, responsible and informed Singapore citizen (Larmore 2008).  It has been observed that many teachers tend to believe that teaching is a moral endeavor that gives them a responsibility of influencing the actions as well as values of students in addition to being role models to the students.

Most students are caught between the stipulated curriculum which is what the official school position is as represented in its written rules and codes, and the enacted curriculum which is what takes place from day-to-day (Winton 2008).  It is therefore important that instead of determining which values and morals should be taught in academic institutions, educators should be more concerned with how to encourage constant awareness of contradictory global perceptions (Ryan & Lickona 1992).  Educated citizens make for a better community and it is on this particular foundation that education is considered part of the social infrastructure.  Values and character education not only helps students to develop and practice ethical values that the diverse society has in common as well as holds important but it also teaches them to be caring, honest, fair, just, trustworthy and responsible citizens in future (Noddings 2002).  Values and character education creates good citizens who possess good characteristics such as courage, integrity, honesty, self-discipline, responsibility, trust, benevolence as well as compassion (Winton 2008).  It is not uncommon to note that majority of educators and academic institutions in general tend to mistake good behavior for good character.  They tend to value most in young people what these young people least value in themselves (Noddings 2002).

As earlier mentioned, the research study included two schools for their investigations regarding different attitudes, beliefs and reactions of both students and teachers regarding the CCE Programme, good character, citizenship and values education.  The findings of the research are as discussed below.

Students’ perception of the purpose of their schools’ CCE Programme

Regarding students’ perception of the purpose of their schools’ CCE Programme, majority of the respondents were asked to give their views of what entails good character, citizenship, values and the general Character and Citizenship education.  Under good character, respondents from the N school believed that it is important for one to be respectful and responsible in order for other individuals to be able to trust them (Ryan & Lickona 1992).  One of the respondents added that good character is being responsible of the small things that majority of people often take for granted for instance not littering around and being kind to others.  Hard work and exhibiting effective leadership was also part of what the students believed to incorporate good character.  On the other hand, students from E school believe good character means that one is not involved in criminal activities and helping those in need.  One of the respondents from this school also cited that having good character means hard work and not littering one’s surroundings (Tan & Chong 2007).

As for students’ perception regarding citizenship, respondents from school N believe that good citizenship incorporates helping one another, being respectful of each other and being responsible of one’s surroundings as well as making an effort of contributing to their society and the betterment of their country as a whole.  On the other hand, respondents from E school cited that good citizenship incorporates living for and dying for one’s nation, in this case Singapore, implementing the country’s loyalty pledge as a citizen, working hard and generally contributing to the nation’s security (Winton 2008).

Under character education programmes, respondents from N school cited that it is important for academic institutions to encourage such programmes as students are taught on how to possess leadership qualities and skills as a way of enabling them become better individuals in life (Tan & Chong 2007).  Respondents from school E on the other hand cited that Character Education programmes enable them not to engage in illegal activities such as drug addiction thus keeping them out of prison and allowing them to have a brighter future.  In as far as Values are concerned respondents from both schools perceive that values come about as a result of working harmoniously with other individuals in addition to having self discipline which prevents them from behaving in an uncalled for manner.

Upon being asked about the roles and responsibilities of their teachers, respondents from N school cited that they are taught about character and citizenship in their course of their learning while respondents from E school cited that their academic institution has professional educators who teach them values such as compassion and commitment (Noddings 2002).

Teachers’ views regarding the purpose of their school’s CCE Programme

Teachers in this research study were also questions as to their attitudes, beliefs and perspective regarding CCE Programme as a whole.  Under good character, those respondents from N school cited that for students or individuals to exhibit good character, they ought to know the right things to do in addition to putting others before themselves (Larmore 2008).  Some of the respondents also added that good character is generally the quality of an individual’s actions as well as behavior for instance sensitivity towards other’s needs.   Respondent teachers from E school perceive that good character as being able to tell right from wrong without any supervision and also having good values (Ryan & Lickona 1992).

Respondents from both schools perceive citizenship to be a characteristic where an individual makes an effort of working towards the good of the nation without expectations of any rewards, being loyal and giving back to one’s nation.  Good citizenship also incorporates harmony with one another not only in the academic environment but also in the general surroundings of an individual (Winton 2008).  The teachers were also asked to cite their perceptions regarding their expectations and beliefs in as far as CCE Programme was concerned.  While those teachers from N school cited that it was important for students to excel in their character especially where honesty and integrity is concerned, one respondent from school E cited that he considers himself a strict teacher and believes that good manners is something that is never an option.  He also added that he expects his students to be respectful and hardworking regardless of whether or not some of these students may be slow learners (Tan & Chong 2007).

Under schools’ directions and ethos, respondents from N school perceived that it was important to promote core school values as the foundation for good character amongst students and that they are responsible for ensuring that these students or rather young people grow up to understand, act upon and care for core ethical values which include academic values (Larmore 2008).    Respondent teachers from E school also cited that it is important to focus on character building as part of the school’s directions and ethos.

As for roles and responsibilities of teachers, those from N school perceived that it is important for school leaders as well as academic staff to realize the importance of character building and make an effort of supporting the department’s initiatives by practicing what they preach as it were.  Students should be provided with opportunities to interact with one another and work together for the common good of their learning process through cooperative learning (Ryan & Lickona 1992).  One of the respondents in this particular school cited that it is important for teachers to establish supportive and caring relationships throughout the school environment.  On the other hand, respondent teachers from E school perceive that character building is not a short term responsibility for the educators but should continue until the students graduate.

Teachers’ beliefs and expectations in CCE Design and Implementation

It was important for the researcher in this study to investigate teachers’ beliefs and expectations regarding CCE Design and Implementation in the two chosen schools.  Respondent teachers from N school cited that they implement pink and blue slip to act as a form of offence report card where for instance if a student erred 4 times they would be given the pink slip where their parents would be required to sign it (Noddings 2002).  Additionally, the department in this school set their own KPIs and since they have achieved the CDA award it indicates that this particular approach is effective.  On the other hand, teachers from E school cited that they implement QSEs as a way of monitoring how much they have done and the effectiveness of it.  The school also designs and implements focus group discussions with their different levels of children where at the end of the academic year the students are given an opportunity of stating their expectations, what they would want to learn in the course of the following year and how well their school has done in as far as establishing their character and catering for their individual needs is concerned (Winton 2008).

Where Character Education Programmes are concerned teachers in N school provide students with opportunities to take part in moral action under CIP.  According to one of the respondents, the school has adopted the ACE approach with regards to behavior modification as a way of developing positive teacher-student relationships (Ryan & Lickona 1992).  Respondents also cited that through such programmes and applications their students are exhibiting and showing values that the educators have all along been emphasizing on.   On the other hand, respondent teachers from E school cited that they implement the RP-Restorative Practice which is intended to bring out good values in their students (Tan & Chong 2007).  Students in this academic institution are also allowed to do a lot of reflection with regards to their learning process which helps in building their character.

There exist a number of dimensions with regards to the school curriculum but regardless of the characterizations of the curriculum all its conceptualizations incorporate a certain level of interaction between teachers and their students (Winton 2008).  For the educators to effectively implement the curriculum as per the CCE programme, they are required to act as facilitators of individual self realization, growth and development.  There is need for academic institutions to improve Character and Citizenship Education in order to better foster civic responsibility from students and enhance a commitment to life long learning.  CCE is considered important in that it tends to create a climate of respect for self and others, fosters fewer behavioral issues, fosters a positive school culture as well as enhance employability skills within students (Winton 2008).  It is therefore important for CCE to reach beyond an emphasis on character attributes and traits as the main focus and instead keep in mind the manner as to how critical thinking, participation in one’s own learning and decision making can be fostered in the general society (Larmore 2008).  Parents and families should be aware of the fact that primary responsibility for CCE development lies with them even though academic institutions also play a contributing role towards this development.

The schools in this research study apparently still employ the traditional approach to rewards and recognition which is in itself a limitation.  The use of blue and pink slips for instance is not an enough effective approach where disciplining the students is concerned.  Other approaches such as awarding prices or scholarships should be implemented in order to encourage good behavior among the students.

 

Significance of the Study

The main significance of this study is to investigate and understand the importance of Character and Citizenship Education as well as the development of values and character education in young people.  The study will also look at how best CCE and values and character education can be implemented so as to foster responsible citizens willing and capable of taking up future social and political responsibilities.  The main focus of the study will be Singapore as this will provide adequate information as to how CCE as well as values and character education has been successfully implemented within the school curriculum and will provide evidence of the effectiveness in developing responsible citizens.  Gaining familiarity and deeper understanding about the subject matter is yet another significance of this particular study.

Limitations of the Study

Some of the limitations to the study may include the fact that the students and teachers sampled for the study may have a busy or tight schedule thus making the study take longer time than previously planned.  Transport costs may also be a limitation as the researcher needs to travel from one school to the next when comparing and investigating the subject matter and whether or not it is being implemented in the chosen academic institutions.  Keeping in mind that these (schools) are a diverse population, there may be a language barrier limitation and the researcher may have to find a translator or explain in a simple manner as to make the respondents familiar with what is required of them in the course of the study.

 

REFERENCES

Larmore, C. (2008). The Autonomy of Morality. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Noddings, N. (2002). Educating Moral People: A Caring Alternative to Character Education. New York: Teachers College Press.

Ryan, K. and Lickona, T. (Eds) (1992) Character Development in Schools and Beyond. 2nd Edition.  Washington: The Council for Research in Values and Philosophy.

Tan, C. and Chong, K. (Eds) (2007 ) Critical perspectives on values education in Asia. New York: Pearson/Prentice Hall.

Winton, S.  (2008) The appeal(s) of character education in threatening times: caring and critical democratic responses. Comparative Education 44 (3), 305-316.