Character education: the key to preparing students for an uncertain future
Over the next decade, one billion young people will enter the world of work, but it is estimated that 60% of the jobs they will hold don’t yet exist. David Sargeant, Head of Science at Long Close School in the UK, considers how character education can better prepare our children for a technology-centric future.
For the first time, technological advancements are moving too quickly for us to be able to reasonably predict the future for our children. Meanwhile, the giant global educational machine rolls on, focusing on academics because that is how we have always measured our young people.
It is refreshing, then, to work in an environment where school leaders are not only committed to developing academic excellence but are equally focused on equipping students with the skills and character traits that will enable them to compete and excel in the uncertain world to come.
The word “character” is everywhere at the moment, infusing itself into our literature and ethos. For this I’m profoundly glad. It is a word that encompasses a wide range of traits that we are committed to developing at Long Close School and throughout the Cognita group. In character development we are talking about leadership, team work, diligence, perseverance, problem-solving, trouble-shooting, empathy, tolerance and so on.
These character traits are now fully embedded into our teaching philosophy. They are delivered as an integral part of our Form time, our Pastoral system and comprise an important role in out-of-classroom teaching. Our club provision along with calendar events like “enrichment week” and “curriculum collapse” are all designed to develop students’ character, alongside their academic performance.
It is when we leave the school grounds, however, that things really hot up. Our school takes character development so seriously that no trips are approved unless the lead teacher has demonstrated how it will support the development of these character traits.
So, the question inevitably arises: Is it really going to be beneficial in this technology-driven future for our children to know how to build a fire and raise a tent? It’s a fair question but somewhat misses the point. It is not “cave man” skills that we’re interested in, we are interested in how children react and adapt in unfamiliar situations. Such programmes can put children firmly out of their comfort zones and it is there that character development flourishes.
The character skills developed outside of the classroom also have an enormous impact on the actual learning that takes place in the classroom. Children who come into class ready to problem-solve, to persevere, to support and teach their peers outperform other children in all areas.
This is the future that we are preparing for and we are committed to ensuring that it is our students that are the best equipped to embrace it.