The Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report recommends the adoption of a philosophy of education that puts emphasis on character and citizenship.
Previous commissions had encouraged a philosophy that caters for market needs, but little about responsible citizenship. Preparing learners solely to respond to ‘market needs’ has left out core tenets of holistic education.
The report sees education first as a means of providing opportunities for every citizen to participate in building the society. Equally important, the report recognised that knowledge, skills, and values are conjoined, and so schools have the responsibility to form character and values in learners.
Teddy Roosevelt once said that to educate a person in mind and not in morals is to educate a menace to society. We form and live in a complex society. For it to thrive, the education system should provide learners with market skills, while at the same time shaping their character.
The report recommends a philosophy that goes beyond academics and the Basic Education Curriculum Framework (BECF) seeks to cure this. The BECF, which is the blueprint for the competency-based curriculum (CBC), expresses concern that young people are growing up without values and psychosocial competencies needed to function as responsible citizens.
The BBI report reaffirms the issues that the BECF raises. This confirmation emboldens the Ministry of Education to give more attention to the indissoluble nexus between knowledge, skills and values.
Wide acceptance of the aspiration of education in the BBI report will give policy support to the structured reorganisation of the curriculum, learning and school environment in ways that will catalyse delivery of holistic education.
The reorganisation of education and schooling to align to this is not a complicated or expensive process. Character education entails training for honesty, courage, responsibility, kindness, compassion, sacrifice, loyalty to friends and country among other traits.
It also comes with dis-educating and discouraging through appropriate enculturation traits such as greed, selfishness, pride, cowardice, impatience and rigidity. What this means is that writers of history, literature and biographies have an obligation to develop characters in our texts that exemplify good traits and put on trial undesirable character.
Skilfully conceived curriculum programmes can invite students to discern the moral of stories, historical events and of famous lives, be they fictional or actual, and distinguish right from wrong.
While designing our reforms to reflect this new holistic trajectory, it’s worth remembering that example is more worthwhile than precept. Children learn from what they see more than what they hear or read. A moral example is more powerful in instilling virtues than teaching or pontificating about it.
Therefore, the values that teachers and parents espouse and live by are the most influential source of enculturation for our learners. School leadership will need to cultivate a value system within the institutions of learning such that there exists a school culture that supports the acquisition and development of values.
As Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Intelligence is not enough, but that intelligence plus character is the goal of true education”. Luther’s reminder to America then, is quite relevant to us today.