Character and Leadership Education
The challenge facing all schools today is how best to prepare pupils for the realities of living and competing in a global society. This calls for all educators to critically examine current practice to ensure that pupils are provided with the opportunities to develop the requisite knowledge and skills to help them flourish. This is a daunting task and an awesome responsibility.
There is now a significant body of research highlighting how character qualities and leadership skills are directly linked to being able to flourish at school, in the workplace, and in a global society. If we believe the research findings to be true, and we do, then our schools must develop a values-based education strategy that is planned, organised and reflective. The teaching of character through leadership must be an integral part of this and underpin curriculum provision and wider learning experiences. Importantly, we must also provide focus to supporting, equipping and empowering teachers to deliver this cultural change.
Academic research together with our own research evidence and experiences to date support the growing call that character qualities and leadership skills must be consistently taught, modelled and encouraged in order to provide the rationale, language and tools to raise aspiration, promote achievement and increase happiness for all.
“The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character - that is the goal of true education.”
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Character is a set of personal traits that produce specific moral emotions, inform motivation and guide conduct. Character education is an umbrella term for all the explicit and implicit educational activities that help learners develop positive strengths called virtues.
In order for individuals to flourish they need to demonstrate self-confidence, perseverance, resilience, courage, honesty, humour, optimism, trust, loyalty, integrity, enterprise…the list goes on. However, we must steer clear of the idea that these characteristics are assumed by genetic transfer or some form of osmosis, they are not. They must be consistently taught, modelled and encouraged.
Character education is about helping learners grasp what is ethically important in situations and how to act for the right reasons, so that they become more autonomous and reflective. In this process, the ultimate aim of character education is the development of good sense or practical wisdom; the capacity to choose intelligently between alternatives.
In these terms, it is clear to see how character education underpins raising aspiration, promoting achievement and increasing happiness for all learners.
“Leadership defines what the future should look like, aligns people with that vision, and inspires them to make it happen despite obstacles.”
The development of leadership skills contributes greatly to the positive development of learners within schools, in the workplace and in the local community.
Leading is not about putting on the captain's armband or a position only attainable by the selected few. Leading is about learning specific skills rather than possessing inherent natural abilities.
In this way, being a leader is similar to being an athlete. Some individuals are born with attributes that aid in athletics, such as the number of fast-twitch and slow-twitch muscle fibres they have, but success in athletics requires thousands of hours of practice to acquire the skills needed to enable high performance. Ultimately, success in any field is to do with the constant honing of skills through constant practice.
Learning personal leadership skills is a REAL option for ALL learners and by teaching and developing leadership skills we allow learners to develop greater personal drive and increase their determination to succeed.
In these terms, it is clear to see how leadership education underpins raising aspiration, promoting achievement and increasing happiness for all learners.