There has been a negative trend of violent crimes and mayhem all around the world. It is evident in the news every day and in the daily lives of each individual. All the violence and immorality affects people at all levels of society both directly and indirectly, and hence there is a need for change. These unbecoming habits can be weeded out of the society if people come up with the right mechanisms that will address the cause of the problem. Many politicians, scholars, and educators believe that the perpetrators of immorality do it due to a lack of proper education. They believe that these people were not taught the core values of right and wrong during their formative years at home or in school (Francom, 2013). Throughout history, the two core values of education have been teaching people how to be smart and molding them into good citizens. Character education has been described as a deliberate approach by school personnel, in association with the parents and community, to help the youth and children to become principled, responsible, and caring (Skaggs & Bodenhorn, 2006)
Character education, the art of teaching children to be good, is one of the recognized ways that society uses in combating these unbecoming behaviors. Studies have indicated that effective character education improves the bond between students and school, which raises attendance and reduces the dropout rates (Francom, 2013). Character development involves a deliberate attempt to nurture the fundamental attributes upon which communities and schools find consensus (Finding Common Ground: Character Development in Ontario Schools, K-12, 2008). These attributes provide the accepted standard of behavior upon which the community bases its accountability. They form the foundation of responsible citizenship and healthy relationships. Excellence in education includes the acquiring of skills and also the development of individual character.
Ontario's Character Development Initiative stresses the importance of inclusive and equitable schools where all students enjoy a sense of belonging. The focus on reaching out to each learner sets out high standards in citizenship, academic achievement, and character development (Finding Common Ground, 2008). Quality education entails more than just academic achievement since it is about the overall development of the individual. Families and parents are primarily responsible for molding their children's character, with assistance from their school and the community at large.
The successful implementation of character education will come about only if it is made into the central focus of the schooling program. Students should be taught from early in life to ensure that the right morals are ingrained. It, therefore, falls upon the school leadership to ensure that there is an availability of character education within the learning curricula. Principals have realized the importance of molding the students' character and how it helps in improving the academic outcomes and overall school climate (Francom, 2013). Not all principals in Ontario are well prepared to lead an effective character education program, and hence it is vital to ensure that they are well-versed with the value and implementation of this learning.
Ontario Leadership Framework
Leadership is the most crucial factor in implementing a successful character education initiative within the school program. The school administrator is chiefly responsible for shaping the development of character education initiatives and ensuring that they are infused into the school environment, families, and community (Francom, 2013). Leadership comes a close second to classroom instructions among all the factors that contribute to students learning at school (Finding Common Ground, 2008). Principals, as school heads, can articulate, inspire, and set an example for the rest to follow.
The Ontario Leadership Framework (OLF) acknowledges the importance of educational leaders in shaping the entire educational system. Effective leadership has come out as one of the foundations of an enhanced and sustainable system-wide improvement (The Ontario Leadership Framework, 2013). This framework was designed to offer a roadmap on how organizations can improve their leadership potential to utilize the advanced concepts to meet educational objectives and other results (The Ontario Leadership Framework, 2013). School leaders are instrumental in the development of excellent schools, teaching programs, and ultimately enhancing student well-being and achievement. System leaders, on the other hand, are responsible for putting in place supportive procedures and practices to enable the school leaders to optimize their performance (The Ontario Leadership Framework, 2013). It shows that the OLF recognizes the importance of a structured leadership that achieves the academic requirements as well as character development. The core purpose of the leadership framework is to provide system leaders, principals, and vice principals with a precise roadmap that represents leading research and best practices of successful leaders in Ontario and around the world (The Ontario Leadership Framework, 2013).
An effective leader must display certain traits and competencies if he or she is to be successful in administering a comprehensive character education system. One of the fundamental characteristics of a leader is being visionary (Francom, 2013). A leader's vision covers the future of the school, what it might be, the direction it is likely to take, and other possibilities. A visionary leader can look at the future and have a good idea of the expectations and opportunities. The Ontario Leadership Framework postulates that one of the core competencies of a school leader is the ability to set goals. Goal-setting can only occur if the targets are specific, measurable, attainable, results-oriented, and time-bound. Understanding all these variables just happens when there is a visionary leader at the helm.
Another core leadership capacity, according to the Ontario Leadership Framework, is the promotion of collaborative learning cultures. It is the capacity of allowing school communities, districts, and schools to work as a team and learn from one another with the central aim of improving the quality of teaching and overall student achievement (The Ontario Leadership Framework, 2013). The OLF singles out collaboration as a critical aspect in enabling character education in schools. Principals are committed to building collaborative cultures and structures that increase connectivity with the broader environment (Future Leaders Program, 2011). One of the fundamental beliefs and principles of the Ontario Character Development initiative is a commitment to the sharing of responsibility during character development. It cites character development as a primary responsibility of families and parents. It must be a whole-school initiative where every member of the school fraternity shares the responsibility of modeling, teaching, and demonstrating the universally standard attributes during all activities (Finding Common Ground, 2008).
Leadership requires one to have the capacity to challenge current practices and foster innovation via conversation (The Ontario Leadership Framework, 2013). Engaging in these courageous conversations is a way of listening and providing feedback that leads to improved student well-being and achievement. The success of any character education initiative relies on the principal, who influences learning activities in the school. The most significant impact of a school occurs, not in the teaching of formal lessons, but in enabling the learning of values. Character education is a kind of reform that requires changing the entire culture and practices (Francom, 2013). Principals should advocate for, and lead the process of implementing character education since have the most significant impact on the school culture and climate.
An effective character education program has several common components such as standards, expectations, leadership, implementation criteria, vision, resources, etc. One of the primary roles of principals according to the Ontario Leadership Framework is to build relationships and develop people (Future Leaders Program, 2011). Principals strive to establish a genuine and trusting relationship with the students, families, staff, and communities, based on a framework of mutual respect. They also lead by example by modeling these core values and morals at all times. Having high standards, and enforcing them in a school setting, is an action that principals have borrowed from the character education playbook.
The Ontario Leadership Framework stipulates one of the core competencies of a principal as being able to secure accountability. They are accountable to the community, parents, board, and supervisors for ensuring the students benefit from the education (Future Leaders Program, 2011). Principals must ensure that all members of staff create a positive example and play their respective roles in improving the overall outcome of the students. The quality of interpersonal relationships in schools is an integral part of character development. Learning involves all members of the school fraternity since they interact with the students at one point or the other. Volunteers, support staff, and bus drivers, among others, are part of this broader learning fraternity (Finding Common Ground, 2008). Students learn vital lessons about what it means to care and be a person of character from the adults that they get into contact. Ensuring a rigorous accountability and evaluation program for the staff members is an excellent way for the Ontario Leadership Framework to implement character development standards.
Benefits of Character Education to Teaching and Learning
Good character entails the ability to consistently apply principles like truthfulness, fairness, responsibility, and respect when faced with an ethical or behavioral choice. Character education was a core part of the public school program until it was phased out in the 1950s. A central factor in its decline was the fear that teaching moral values would be equated to teaching religion in schools. Character education and development made a comeback in the 1980s as a remedy to the deteriorating quality of public education. Several other approaches had been implemented to arrest the perceived decline in education quality, including peer education, drug prevention, community service, and finally character education. Some of the programs target specific areas of character development, such as communication skills, bullying, or community building. The studies conducted on the effectiveness of character education programs have shown that they lead to an improvement in student development (Skaggs & Bodenhorn, 2006).
Current trends in character education involve a balance between moral reasoning skills and the establishment of behavioral habits; a balanced focus on the responsibilities of both the individual and community; and an expectation that educators will act as role models to the students (Skaggs & Bodenhorn, 2006). A general goal of character education initiatives is helping the students to demonstrate positive traits that exemplify their characters, such as trust, responsibility, and respect. When presenting the findings of a successful character education program, it is done in terms of high academic achievement, reduced cases of behavioral referrals or suspensions, and a low rate of risky behaviors like drug use and teen pregnancy. The bottom line of an educational reform program is to improve the achievement of students in the class. When there are fewer cases of su...
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