SAFER Training Programme (English)

Character Education Theoretical Background – The Importance of Character Education

The teaching of good character through values education, is particularly important in today’s society since primary and secondary students face many challenges derived directly from internet and social media impact (American Academy of Paediatrics, 2009), limited parenting or poor parenting styles, peer pressure (Brown, Clasen, Eicher, 1986) and violent or aggressive behaviors (Frick & White, 2008).

Furthermore, children nowadays are bombarded with many more negative influences through the media and other external sources prevalent in today’s culture that are unknown to earlier generations (Skiba & Peterson, 2000). Thus, it is challenging for children to find reliable and consistent ethical paradigms that will direct their development and later life. This reality highlights the need for schools to create the kind of social environments where students will feel accepted, supported and valued as important members of the school community and hence members of a larger society.

Character education focused on the causes of violence and aggression, thereby promoting a safe school environment, where such behaviors will be detected early on and prevented (Schaeffer, 1999). Schools have the responsibility of student’s academic development but they do play an important part in children’s’ socialization and teaching them ethical values and prepare them to become contributing citizens one day. A good citizen is one that knows and understands rights and responsibilities in their society (Schaeffer, 1998). Hence the school needs to educate children on the aforementioned values and relevant behaviors from early on.

Firstly, a supportive classroom environment needs to be established, where students have the opportunity to express themselves in a free manner, and be tolerant and respectful of other people’s opinions (Brady, 2011). Values can be cultivated under age appropriate and carefully designed educational methods in order to increase pupil’s intrinsic motivation towards values and encourage them to practice and implement those values in their everyday life. For instance, a value such as respect can be successfully learnt and absorbed only when children act on it, which means showing, expressing respect under specific circumstances (Lickona & Davidson, 2005).

In addition, Character Education has been suggested as a promising prevention strategy for violent and deviant behaviour. More specifically, students from primary schools (elementary grade) who attended a Character Education programme were found to have increased levels of social competence (Miller, Kraus, & Veltkamp, 2005), which is generally defined as the ability to handle social interactions effectively and it is a construct strongly linked to social skills. By placing emphasis on enhancing moral behaviour in children, a promotion of healthy development and thriving across various domains was reported (Park & Peterson, 2009). Also, it is suggested that children demonstrated significant increase in behaviors related to valuing diversity and helping others (Scales, Blyth, Benson, & Leffert, 2000).