Character Development in the Education System

In September, the new education minister, Mr Heng Swee Keat, made his first major policy address. Everyone had been expecting him to announce how schools could prepare students for the globalized world, but instead, he explained the necessity to instill values in students. Mr Heng divided values into a few groups - personal values, moral values, and citizenship values. The reason for the first group of values is obvious – we all need our personal values to become a better person. Moral values, on the other hand, involve interaction with others. Examples of moral values are respect, responsibility, and care for others. Moral values ensure that we are socially responsible people. Especially in Singapore, where there is a complicated social fabric, consisting of different races and cultures, all of us must learn to respect other races and cultures. This allows society to be much more peaceful. Citizenship values are values that enable us to unite cohesive as a nation in times of crisis, such as during wartime.

So why should character development be taught in school? Mr Heng believes that the character development is about developing social emotional competencies. This means that character development teaches us what is socially accepted. I feel that these values are intertwined with learning and education. These values, besides teaching us what is right and wrong, also gives us the confidence to study hard. For instance, determination, which is a personal value, is needed to complete a difficult task. Although it is common belief that values should be inculcated in the child at home, the problem is that the parents are not doing enough. In an increasingly materialistic and well educated society, more and more parents are forced to go to work to earn money. Thus, parents do not have time to spend with their children to teach them the right values. Thus, the school can step in here to inculcate students about values. They spend most of their time there, and it is only right that the school, whose duty is to educate, should also instill values. In addition, school is a microcosm of society, and thus the environment is suitable for the students to learn as well as practice these values in preparation for life in society. In the status quo, there are lessons on character development, but these lessons are lightly taken and some teachers use these character development lessons to teach other subjects. Thus, if we want the schools to really teach values, then something needs to be changed.

What should be changed to make a difference? The most important changes that Mr Heng proposed were to make a change to the CCA system and the grading systems. He felt that CCAs needed to emphasize more that CCAs were meant for the students to learn about teamwork as well as sportsmanship, and not to win medals – the medals are only a reward for those who perform well. Also, he found that there was a problem with the grading system, and they would “give due recognition to key learning outcomes”. Those who show that they have learnt something important in that CCA would be rewarded. Besides this, I feel that the school should organize other out-of-curriculum activities put into place. For example, they could first give a short explanation on some of the values and why they are important, and then practice these values in activities. I feel that such activities should be focused more on the lower primary level, as student older than that need to prepare for their examinations.

The education system is grinding towards a one more focused toward producing more morally upright students, and in my opinion, this will be a good change for Singapore.

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Hi guys, I'm a student in Singapore, and this are some thoughts and essays I have written over the years.