The importance of the educational sector of countries cannot be overemphasized as the growth and development of nations depend on the extent to which they are able to raise the next generation, which is what the educational sector aims to achieve. The grooming of children to become the right kind of citizens and leaders to move countries forwards has gained center stage in debate arena. However, the educational sector (globally) has been under serious threats that attempt to hinder it from attaining its set objectives. Such threats include but not limited to recorded gun-men attacks in schools in the US, to cases of rape, and truancy among students in institutions. All this suggests the need to look closely at what the school is doing or can do to ensure that learning actually takes place. By learning we mean that students gain enough information that changes their behavior positively.
It has become important for schools to inculcate behavioral competence into their students and seek ways to improve their characters because what make for good citizenry is beyond academic performance but behavioral congruence with acceptable norms.
At the Institute for Work and Family Integration, IWFI, we are alarmed at the rising incidences of apparent lack of character and values demonstrated by youths in Nigerian schools, evidenced by increasing crime, varying in intensity and age group of the perpetrators. Such crimes include rampant abuse of drugs, open displays of cruelty, and a generalized display of disrespect. These character and crimes observed had degenerated into a blame game between various institutions such as family, schools and religious settings, with each one pointing accusation at the other for being responsible for the social vices in the society. Rather than the attempt to hold each other responsible for the problem, we believe that a collaborative approach would yield the needed result.
To start with, it is important for us to know that the values and character that people display are not innate but was learnt in one form or the other; they must have been learned, taught and honed through practice and a conducive environment. Based on this assertion, it becomes important that all institutions that are burdened with the responsibility of transmitting culture must assume responsibility to ensure that desired values and character are upheld. More so, each of these institutions must come to accept each other as partners in the same course rather than compete because these institutions have varying level of influence, hence, there is the need for each to focus on their area of influence and make corrective changes within their sphere of influence.
The Chairman of the Institute for Work and family Integration, Engr. Charles A. Osezua OON made some recommendations on “Parental involvement in the education of their child” at the IWFI International conference on the family and sustainable development where he emphasized the need to re-enact National values and inculcate virtues in the child that will help stamp out corruption at the root. He also proposed policies that will encourage the training of teachers to equip them on how to collaborate with parents. According to him, the family and school are at the forefront, based upon the principle of most frequent contact, though arguably the media are very influential in this mission as well.
The need for better character in line with acceptable norms is as old as western education itself; however, it is of recent that schools are coming to terms with the need to engage other stakeholders in children education. With the family being one of the foremost stakeholders, it becomes reasonable to involve them in the training and grooming of the next set of leaders. This is in line with the institute’s philosophy that the parents are the first teachers of the child and that sustainable development finds its root in integral education through collaboration between the family and the school.
Character education in most of our schools is fast becoming a matter of allowing youth to decide a value path instead of directly being taught as before. Beginning in the 1960s, academic competence became the predominant issue in America and has intensified in this era of international competition, gradually leading to decline in character education over the years. The result of this loop-sided form of education has generated some problems that need to be fixed, leading to the recent attention being paid to it.
There has been a renewed interest in character education that has been steadily building in the past two decades.Schools are making clearheaded and wholehearted commitment to teaching moral values and developing good character, primarily because the need is so apparent. We have observed that schools also are interested in building desired character in children but are limited for fear of crossing legal boundaries. Especially in Nigeria (like other parts of the world), where flogging is totally unacceptable, teachers find themselves limited in ways through which to enforce desired behavior. It has often been reported that students are instructed to come with their parents, with the hope that the parents will be in a better position to instill values but most times, the result is less than optimal. In short, the patchwork of strategies for integrating character education which lack coherence is due in no small measure to a severe disagreement over whose values should be taught and how to teach them, especially in cases where the teachers and parents are not in agreement regarding values and behaviors.
Given the public’s unwavering concern for and schools’ obligation to educate the entire person, there is little doubt that a consensus can be reached on such a set of values that will not subjugate the efforts of one social institution over another. Such a consensus must be reached to develop the shared vision of what character traits should be fostered. In order toreach a holistic consensus, newer approaches purport to incorporate student thoughts and feelings as suggested in action learning, an endeavor that is more likely to have a significant impact. It is in the best interests of all concerned that character educators be sensitive to students’ moral reasoning by listening to student perspectives, drawing them out, and challenging them to promote moral/character development.
We cannot expect our students to develop good character through wishful thinking or the hope that someone else will do it. There are several influential spheres in this regard, each capable of making a positive or negative impact. An effective character education program will require an active partnership among those spheres. Each offers the potential for the outcome we seek and together they offer a nurturing environment toward full character development. It is in line with this thought process that the Institute for Work and Family Integration (IWFI) puts together the Executive Teachers Program (ETP) in Integral Student Education to further share insights on the benefits of collaboration of the various spheres such that all stakeholders get their desired outcome of the student and make the society and the world at large a better place to live in.