Character Education

oak_tree‘Good character is the foundation for improved attainment and human flourishing.’

Character is a set of personal traits that produce  specific moral emotions, inform motivation and guide conduct. Character education is an umbrella term for all explicit and implicit educational activities that help young people develop positive personal strengths called virtues.

What is Character Education?

Character education is more than just a subject. It has a place in the culture and functions of families, classrooms, schools and other institutions. Character education is about helping students grasp what is ethically important in situations and how to act for the right reasons, so that they become more autonomous and reflective. Students need to decide the kind of person they wish to become and to learn to choose between alternatives. In this process, the ultimate aim of character education is the development of good sense or practical wisdom: the capacity to choose intelligently between alternatives.

Key Principles

  • Character is educable and its progress can be measured holistically, not only through self-reports but also more objective research methods
  • Character is important: it contributes to human and societal flourishing
  • Character is largely caught through role-modelling and emotional contagion: school culture and ethos are therefore essential
  • Character should also be taught: direct teaching of character provides the rationale, language and tools to use in developing character elsewhere in and out of school
  • Character is the foundation for improved attainment, better behaviour and increased employability
  • Character should be developed in partnership with parents, employers and other community organisations
  • Character results in academic gains for students, such as higher grades
  • Character education is about fairness and each child has a right to character development
  • Character empowers students and is liberating
  • Character demonstrates a readiness to learn from others
  • Character promotes democratic citizenship

What Character Education is not

  • Character education is not about promoting the moral ideals of a particular moral system. Rather, it aims at the promotion of a core set of universally acknowledged cosmopolitan virtues.
  • Character education is not about moral indoctrination and mindless conditioning. The ultimate goal of all proper character education is to equip students with the intellectual tools to choose wisely of their own accord within the framework of a democratic society. Critical thinking is central to a well-rounded character.
  • Character and virtue are not exclusively religious notions. Almost all current theories of virtue and character education are couched in a post-religious language.
  • The emphasis on character and virtue is not conservative or individualist. The ultimate aim of character education is not only to make individuals better persons but to create the social and institutional conditions within which all human beings can flourish

‘[…] the ultimate aim of character education is the development of good sense or practical wisdom: the capacity to choose intelligently between alternatives.’

ReportA Framework for Character Education in Schools