In a 2012 speech, Mr Heng Swee Keat, Minister of Education stressed the importance of moral values in creating a socially responsible population. “We need moral values, such as respect, responsibility, care and appreciation towards others, to guide each of us to be a socially responsible person. In particular, for our multi-racial, multi-cultural society, a sense of shared values and respect allows us to appreciate and celebrate our diversity, so that we stay cohesive and harmonious.”
In Singapore, character building and instilling moral values are recognised as one of the core thrusts of our education system. Parents hope their children will not only do well academically, but also develop holistically in moral and social aspects.
Moulding a Child’s Character
Research has shown that it is critical to establish the right moral values in children below five, which is the age when early childhood experiences will start to shape their development.
All children will, at one point or another experience various setbacks and difficulties, e.g. a scuffle at the playground, sibling rivalry, school bullying, loneliness or even losing a loved one or pet. How young children learn to differentiate and deal with their emotions through these experiences will likely reflect how they will behave in the future.
Raising a socially conscious child is a collaborative effort by the family and school support system. At home, parents can guide their children by teaching them the importance of not littering or how getting into the habit of recycling waste can develop our eco-consciousness. In school, teachers and peers are the role models that your child looks up to in promoting a harmonious environment, as well as displaying tolerance and respect for different racial and cultural backgrounds.
Targeted at children between four and six years old and conducted in Mandarin, this unique and immersive learning method focuses on process, not content, so children will ask why and how instead of what we are learning, thereby helping them acquire the skills to deepen their knowledge on values.
For example, children can discover more about the diverse festivals, food, clothing and languages of the four main races in Singapore through a cultural card game which our curriculum specialists have invented.
To reinforce the four core values – Respect, Care, Responsibility and Honesty – kids will undergo the following:
Interactive Discussion – e.g. kids will discuss what defines each of the traits
Critical Thinking – children to think and reflect about whether certain actions in different scenarios are right or wrong
Action– applying what they learn e.g. attendance marking, taking care of a plant and packing their own school bags, etc.
Even the daily classroom activity like taking attendance is customised for different levels and abilities. While children in nursery still do not know how to write their names yet, they will learn to mark their own attendance by pasting their printed names on the attendance sheet and filling in the date. In K1, they will begin to write their own names and in K2, they will also fill in their mood for the day.
Pedagogy Methods and Strategies
The Character Building Programme is all about daily practice. We recognise the need to inculcate values through activities that children are familiar with in the local context.
Setting Examples: teachers to set good examples
Environment: to create and maintain an environment which children will feel respect, care and cooperation
Experience: for the children to have opportunity to experience and apply what they have learned to their families and friends
Our English teachers play an important part in their collaboration with Chinese teachers on a daily basis in implementing this programme and reinforcing values in children’s day-to-day activities. Moreover, to further reinforce the collaborative effort between school and family, activity sheets will be given to the child for parents to assess the child’s behaviour and development regularly.