What is Character Education?

Featured on the Hong Kong Economic Journal (September 7, 2013)


Many people ask me about what I do and when I answer them with ‘Character Education’, many people give me blank looks. They don’t know what character education is and it’s understandable – not many people talk about it. In a time when grades and academic achievements are hailed high above all, values and soft skills are often put on a shelf.


But I am a true believer of character education because I see the need for it and I see how it is effective in developing children. Character education is about building a child up in his core values so he knows how to make the right decisions, to know how to interact well with others and to be a positive member of society.


In a time when a reported 80% of children between 4 and 11 years old in Hong Kong don’t know how to dress themselves, when bullying is apparently worse in Hong Kong than in overseas, when children are cheating their friends of money on Facebook or even killing their own parents, we need to think about what really matters. Will grades make up for broken relationships? Will test scores make up for wrong life choices? I think not.


And if we believe that prevention is better than a cure, then let’s build the right foundation first, before the building starts to topple. It’s much easier to do what’s right than to undo what’s wrong.


Identity

Children need to know their identity above all. To know their strengths and weaknesses, to know their passions and purpose, to know their goals and dreams. This sense of identity helps build a child’s confidence and is a way of respecting the way that God created them. We have a poster up at JEMS that says ‘An original is worth more than a copy’ and it’s so true. If we have children who always want to be other people, they will never be the original that they were created to be. Trying to make an artist into a doctor will probably mean not having a very good doctor at the end of the day and vice versa. So let’s see our children as unique individuals that have value, worth and amazing talents.


Values

I believe that values are taught, whether implicitly or explicitly. We can teach children to value themselves and to value others. We can teach children the importance of honesty, tolerance, perseverance, responsibility and all the other traits that make a successful individual. We need to teach children these values so that they will know how to make decisions. Parents cannot forever make decisions for their children and when they are put in situations where they have to make hard choices, it will be their values that influence their decisions.


Relationships

Relationships are so core in a person’s life. It really makes me sad when I see highly achieving individuals who have great grades in great schools getting great jobs have broken relationships with their parents, friends or colleagues. Character education prepares children with the values of respect, patience, honesty, integrity and the skills of communication, creativity and leadership to be able to help them thrive in relationships.


Community

Children are so blessed these days with all the things they have and the things they can learn but often the consequence is having children that are ‘me-centred’. Character education helps children see that the world is not just about them and their lives but that the community has many people in it, and there are many ways to care for others. Caring for the community helps children grow in empathy and compassion – character traits that help children work well with others.


Studies have shown that strong character leads to success in academic work, ability to socially interact with others and general success in life. With such great returns, will you invest in character education today?



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甚麼是品德教育?


常常有人問我從事甚麼職業,每當我回答「品德教育」時,他們總會一臉茫然。他們不明白甚麼是品德教育,這是可以理解的──因為不常有人談論這個課題。在分數和學業成績高於一切的時代,價值觀和軟性技能總被擱置在旁。但我衷心相信品德教育,因為我看見它的必要性和教育孩子的效用。品德教育讓孩子建立一套核心價值,讓他們懂得作出正確的決定,懂得與他人建立良好的溝通和成為一個正面積極的社會成員。


這個世代,有八成的四至十一歲港孩不懂得自己更衣,本地的欺凌情況明顯較外地嚴重,有孩子在Facebook上騙取朋友金錢,甚至弒殺父母,我們需要認真思考一下甚麼才是最重要。分數能否幫助修補破裂的關係?考試成績能否挽回錯誤的人生抉擇?相信不能。


如果大家都相信「預防勝於治療」這句話,我們應先一起為孩子打好根基,始終做對的事總比補救做錯了的事容易得多。


身份認知

孩子對自己的身份認知比一切來得更重要。他們要知道自己的長處和短處,知道自己的喜好和目的,知道自己的目標和理想。這種認知有助孩子建立自信心,也是對上帝創造他們的方式表示尊重。我們在JEMS裏貼了一張寫着「原創遠比複製品有價值」(An original is worth more than a copy)的海報,確實說得很對。如果我們的孩子常常希望成為別人,他們永遠不會成為被創造時應成為的「原創」。強行把一位藝術家改造成醫生,最終只會得到一位不太好的醫生,反之亦然。所以,我們應看待孩子為一個個有價值、值得珍惜和擁有優秀才能的獨特個體。


價值觀

無論是直接或間接也好,價值觀必定是教出來的。我們可以教導孩子審視自我價值和他人的價值,我們可以教導他們誠實、忍耐、毅力、責任感和其他成功個體應有特質的重要性。我們需要教導孩子這些價值,讓他們懂得作出決定,因為家長不能永遠為孩子做主,當他們面臨難以抉擇的關口時,他們的價值觀便會影響他們的判斷。


人際關係

人際關係是人生的核心成分之一,當我看到一些有很高成就的人,他們在優秀的學校拿到傑出的成績、找到很好的工作,卻與家人、朋友和同事關係惡劣,便令我感到痛心。品德教育幫助孩子建立尊重、忍耐、誠實及正直等素質,以及溝通、創造及領導等技巧,讓他們能妥善處理人際關係。


社會性

今日的孩子有幸得到不同的學習機會,對於渴望擁有的東西彷彿唾手可得,但後果卻是令他們變得自我中心。品德教育幫助孩子看見自己以外的世界,瞭解社會上不同的人,他們可以有很多方法關心別人。學習關心社會有助孩子建立同理心和同情心──都是幫助孩子與他人建立良好關係的性格特質。


研究顯示,個性較強的人除了會在學業和社交技能上取得成功,在生活上也較易取得成功。有如此豐富的回報,你會否選擇投資品德教育呢?

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