"Every person wants their kids to be good human beings. Depending on the culture, the details get fuzzy. And how those details fits into the national education system is a big issue as well."
This afternoon, educators gathered in Washington DC from around the world to discuss how to build a comprehensive global system for character education that can be leveraged and scaled appropriately. The International Summit is part of the 2012 National Forum for Character Education -- a gathering of educators and other citizens interested in building up people of character within their given cultures. This year's International Summit featured representatives all the way from Japan and Taiwan, to Colombia and Kenya. The summit was structured as an in-depth and interactive discussion with participants rotating through to different groups and meeting new discussion partners.
Here's how it played out with some highlights from each section:
Lightning round - a quick review about the state of character education from every nation involved. A few of the highlights:
- Singapore: Character education has been in their curriculum. They have been teaching values, but not need progressive and modern strategies.
- Indonesia: the lack of character education is currently manifesting itself through a lack of respect for environmental impact
- Taiwan: the government "stresses" character education but it's superficial. We want to contextualize the material so it's impactful
- Colombia: Violence has been a large part of their culture and the need for character education is huge. The government is now starting to dedicate significant resources to it.
Round table sessions - "musical chair" groups discussing four specific questions, then reported
to the entire group after each discussion was through. Sometimes the discussions about each question brought more questions, and sometimes answers. Here are the questions and what some of the discussion groups came up with.
1) What is the appetite for character education around the world?
- There definitely is an appetite but a concern for how to define "what is character" was prevalent.
- Measuring changes in academic achievement is a consistent theme -- how does character and character ed programs fit into achievement measurement?
- Globalization has been a strong force for character ed: employers are looking for ethical employees.
- Is character the right word to use globally? Some languages and cultures don't even have the word "character" in their vocabulary. `
2) What committments do we share? What cultural considerations must be made as we develop an international movement
- How do we respect values and virtues across cultures? Again, the definition of what character is came up.
- Raising students to be others-minded, not self-minded.
- Across cultures, there's disagreement as to WHO is believed to be responsible (i.e. parents, schools, gov't, etc) for character education in the lives of students.
3) What structures already exist and what structures need to exist to support an international movement for character education?
- Global grants to allow access to funding for those around the world that need it.
- CEP and their website should be a central clearinghouse for research done around character education, character education resources, and generally a place for educators to connect with each other.
- Levarage the website also to help bring international consistency tocharacter education.
- Develop a international think tank or "counsel" about character education.
4)What are the immediate next steps for unleashing an international movement?
- Translation materials: CEP has existing resouces, let's re-use them
- Extend the conversation beyond the conference. Fortunately, we have www.cep2012.com for that purpose!
- Build upon the existing CE
P model and infrastructure by creating "international schools of character".
The first International Summit at CEP's National Forum on Character Education was an absolutely smashing success. We heard from passionate, influential educators from around the globe-- with a common mission to spread and nurture quality character education across cultures and borders.