Character education good for learners’ social, emotional development

Educational Journey with EPHAT MUDENDA
SINCE young ones spend a lot of time with their teachers and fellow pupils in school, institutions of learning are expected to ensure that they get the support that they need to reach their full potential.
There must be a deliberate commitment to help children become responsible, caring, and contributing citizens. To achieve this goal, character education should be emphasised in the curriculum as well as school culture.
Character education refers to the teaching of children in a manner that helps them develop as moral, good-mannered, non-bullying, healthy, critical, successful, compliant and socially acceptable beings. It is aimed at ensuring that they develop a global perspective and values based on qualities including love, truthfulness, kindness, justice and respect for all members in the human family.
It is important to note that there are schools in Zambia today – mostly private ones – that have seriously embraced character education programmes as part of their culture. This is, indeed, commendable.
Their common approach is to provide a list of principles or values around which different activities and lessons are planned. These values and principles include honesty, kindness, courage, hard work, endurance, diligence, stewardship, generosity, freedom, respect, justice, equality, peace, love and unity.
Therefore, as individual subject teachers plan their work for a particular term or year, each lesson will have relevant, core human values that children must grasp and put into practice. For instance, a history topic, The San: Hunter-Gatherers, can include an objective such as:
– At the end of the lesson, pupils should be able to state the human values depicted in the way of life of the San people, i.e. hard work, unity and respect for human life.
Then throughout the lesson a teacher will emphasise the fact that it is possible for everyone today to embrace these same values and principles both in a school and community set-up.
Even from topics that deal with events which caused destruction to human life and property, such as Mfecane or World War II, the point that can be underscored is that courage, discipline and endurance, as human values, should be exhibited in all areas that benefit humanity and the environment surrounding man; not for destruction.
What about a lesson in biology? Reproduction? Human values include reverence for God, the giver of life, stewardship (taking care of everything and everyone around us), respect for human life and empathy towards others.
So, basically, individual teachers should be able to identify the core values in each of their lessons and the various extracurricular activities that are part of their respective education centres.
And for it to be effective in schools, character education should involve everyone – teachers, parents, learners, and members of communities. Events such as parent-teacher association (PTA) meetings, open days and enrolment should be utilised fully by school authorities to directly involve communities in promoting human values among schoolgoing children.
When all stakeholders unite around developing pupils’ character, schools are assured of achieving great results. This is because of the fact that the approaches involved promote the intellectual, social, emotional and ethical development of children, who, in turn, grow up with an understanding of why it is important to uphold values and principles such as justice, love, courage, hard work and compassion, among many others.
Character education helps create an integrated culture that supports and challenges both children and adults to always aim for excellence. As Thomas Lickona and Matthew Davidson, in the book Smart and Good Schools, state, this vital part of education “helps young people become smart and helps them become good”.
Institutions that have implemented policies incorporating human values can bear witness to the fact that it improves a school’s culture, increases achievement for learners, prevents unhealthy and anti-social behaviour, and improves one’s job satisfaction in adult life.
Even those bullies and others who exhibit deviant behavioural patterns in schools can surely become capable individuals and good citizens who should be active participants in the socio-economic development of Zambia.

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