“Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education. The complete education gives one not only power of concentration but worthy objectives upon which to concentrate.” – Martin Luther King Jr, ‘The purpose of education’. In recent years, character building has been emphasised in education from primary school all the way up to further education and beyond. Producing students with good morals, ‘soft skills’ and ‘skills for life’ is magnified as an important aim of teaching. In practice, facilitating both character building exercises as well as the national curriculum is a difficult juggling act. One element often falls by the wayside and there is not a clear way of countering the imbalance. More often than not, character education is the forgotten element.
Character building frameworks, like the ‘Six Pillars of Character’ developed by the Josephson Institute of Ethics, help to guide our understanding of where to begin when considering character building in students. The Six Pillars are trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship which cover off some of the main character criteria which theoretically make students “well-rounded”. One thing is certain, character education in school and preparing students for challenges, that they will face beyond exam papers, is a must.
Educational success, attendance, and positivity correlate with ‘strength of character’. Thus, it is a big plus if schools successfully educate their pupils in ‘character’ as well as helping them achieve good grades. In practice, it is evident that the former directly affects the latter.
We need to think ’emotional intelligence’ as well as ‘academic intelligence’, and ‘mental well-being’ alongside ‘brain power’. It seems that the character and moral education have, until very recently, been the underdog. This is possibly due to very minimal measurement of character improvement and our assumption that it must be improving if academic grades are improving – this is not always the case. There is also a lot less focus on the development of character education lesson plans and resources. Action must be taken to redistribute resources so that both elements of education are being fostered and measured independently.
For example, take confidence and resilience, two valuable character traits for career progression. Students who have developed confidence will deal well with interviews and the prospect of more responsibility within a role. If students have developed resilience, they will deal well with rejection and unforeseen obstacles rather than wasting time worrying about minor failures. The challenges we encounter in life after school are not easy and can often feel like having a net pulled out from under you. Confidence and resilience are two character traits that are essential for success in the workplace. We do not gain comfort from grades achieved in the past in these practical situations, we gain comfort from character traits like confidence and resilience. The knowledge that we are able and grounded. These traits are what help us to recognise that minor failure does not mark the end.
Teachers should feel confident in their knowledge about character building so that they can integrate character building experiences into lesson plans with ease. We must keep moving forward with the effort to prioritise character building activities and development games and to ensure that students succeed in achieving ‘the goal of true education’; ‘intelligence plus character’.
If students are said to be “The future of Nation”, then the teachers are those who can be referred as “Future Builders of the Nation”. They build the future citizens of the country. Education is one of the ultimate and most respectable services provided by teachers. Teachers are the main pillars of a sound and progressive society. They bear the weight and responsibility of teaching and apart from parents, are the main source of knowledge and values for children. The role of teacher is very important because the main aim of the teacher is the character building of the students through academics. A teacher should not only be restricted to teaching which is written in the textbook but should try to come up to the students’ expectations for which education should not be confined to merely delivering lectures, because it is another name for mental growth. A teacher should teach the students to respect people, regardless of the social status—it is respect which returns you respect.
The purpose of the teacher is not to cram the student’s head with facts but to prepare them for a life of purity and sincerity. This total commitment to character-building is the highest goal of a teacher. What is important is that the child be exposed to an education that predominantly teaches values such as obedience, care, forgiveness, respect and truthfulness etc. Education should aim at the balanced growth of the total personality of a student through the training of his spirit, intellect, his rational self, feelings and bodily senses. This can only be done by a teacher. He not only caters the spiritual development of the student but is also responsible for the development of the soul—the mind and body. A teacher is also a guide to lead students to the righteous path. It is his duty to produce a wholesome child who carries out his obligations as set out by the precepts of Islam.
The teacher’s directive is to educate a child by giving him or her mannerisms and etiquette that will serve the child and community, and ultimately make the child understand the purpose of his life and to provide the child with knowledge that will equip him/her to pursue both worldly gains and most importantly after-life gains. Such a child does not feel coerced, stifled or imprisoned but feels motivated, free and eager. Knowledge without character = Incomplete Education. The teacher can foster students desire, care about and act upon “the good”. Through character education the teacher can inculcate core ethical values, such as caring, honesty, fairness and responsibility, and respect for self and others. Character education strives to develop students’ intrinsic motivation and commitment to do what is right.
Parents and community members should be full partners in the character-building effort and have to play a cardinal role in the building up of the character of the next generation. The teacher’s role is particularly important and has been compared with that of the prophets. Every prophet is essentially a teacher. On more than one vision, Providence has changed the fate of nations through effective and well directed teaching. This profession is so important and so sacrosanct that the Holy Prophet (P.B.U.H) proudly declared it to be a prominent part of his personality and prophet hood. If a teacher realizes the significance of his job, the tremendous responsibility he is shouldering, the share he has in the future development of the nation, and consequently the accountability he will have to lace in the Hereafter, he will at once shudder with the idea of facing the grave consequences of any dereliction on his part. Indeed it is an ideal teacher at the climax of his performance that brings out a positive change in the overall behavior of his students by leading them to a lofty character and to exemplary morals.
While commenting on the role of the Holy Prophet (P.B.U.H) as a teacher, Robert L. Gulick, writes: “Only the most provincial concept of education would gainsay the legitimacy of placing Mohammad (P.B.U.H) among the great educators of all times for, from the pragmatic standpoint, he who elevates human behavior is a prince among educators.” Teachers have to develop the personality of students. The most important component of personality development of character is developing the spirit of service. When an individual learns to invest one’s surplus strength, knowledge and power to serve other people, he or she becomes a person, develops a new energy resource, namely character- energy. This is the third and highest human energy resource, over and above the first tow. namely, physical energy and intellectual energy. Whatever Pakistan will be in the next generation will depend upon what we do to our students today in the classroom. The students must prepare themselves for future challenges, they should not compromise on their identity wherever they go and whatever they do, they must exert to protect their values.