With an emphasis on character development in our Education Minister’s recent speech, npTribune finds out about what character building programmes we already have in school. This is the first part of our two-part special on ‘Values in Youth’.
Developing character in students is not a foreign concept, but whether our school serves all students is another question altogether.
Sparked off by our Education Minister Mr Heng Swee Keat during the Ministry of Education (MOE) Work Plan Seminar
on Sep 22, character development appears to be on the hot bed of discussion.
In his speech, Mr Heng said, “Character development is about developing social emotional competencies, and the habits and inner disposition based on sound values to act in a consistent way.”
He adds, “Personal values such as grit, determination and resilience, enable the individual to realise his or her potential, and develop ‘performance character’.
He finished up by saying, “Moral values enable the individuals to develop ‘moral character’. These values are intertwined, and are critical to the success of the individual and the society. Hence, values and character development must form the core of our student-centric, holistic education.”
As part of MOE’s initiative, the Character And Citizenship Education framework was also recently launched in September, as reported in a Nov 7 Straits Times article.
Regarding our school’s stance on this issue, Mr Mun Kwok On, Director of Student Development & Alumni Relations (SDAR) says that “experiential and action-learning bring alive values” through programmes like bonding camps and workshops, which are held outside of the academic curriculum.
While non-academic programmes may be NP’s way of building character, some students may appear to have more opportunities than others.
By invitation only
According to the information on the Christieara Programme’s (TCP) webpage that is nestled under SDAR’s, “one in every four freshmen” will be invited to join this scheme that includes overseas service learning programmes and empowerment camps.
Goh Wei Hao, 17, a first-year Tourism & Resort Management student and member of Canoe Polo, Business & Accountancy
(BA) Appreciation and TCP adds that external vendors could be roped in to set up programmes within academic schools to ensure that non-TCP students get a piece of the pie too.
Good old CCA
Though this seems like a drought in character development for those not in TCP, NP has co-curricular activities (CCA), and these are open to all students.
Sunilprashanth, 17, and a member of NP’s soccer team, says, “[I’ve learnt] discipline [and how to] respect my teammates [through my trainings].”
The first-year Aerospace Technology and non-TCP student adds that the semester goes past faster with his CCA to look forward to every week.
Mr Kitratiprasan Kanaphat, 30, who is better known as Mr Dy, is in-charge of the nine community service clubs, which include BP-NP Mentoring.
Giving a rough estimate, the Assistant Student Development Manager from SDAR says that 60 per cent of the 1, 200 students he has are not part of TCP.
Within Each School
Though Sunilprashanth has benefited from his CCA, he said that more workshops conducted by academic schools would be welcome.
According to Mr Lee Thian Pau, 51, the Student Development Manager and Senior Lecturer in the School of Engineering’s Electrical Engineering Division, every academic school has a discretionary budget for student development. He says, “Every
student is [allocated] $80 yearly. [NP] gives it… based on [each academic school’s] student population.”
To ensure that opportunities will be equal, Mr Lee says that study skills, business & dining etiquette, and personal
grooming workshops are offered to EE’s first, second and final-year students respectively. Any budget excess is used for small-scale workshops, like first-aid skills.
As there are no set guidelines, it is up to each academic school to utilise the funds according to their needs.
Unknown to many, academic schools do open up their programmes to students from other courses. An example cited by Mr Lee would be Youth Expedition Project (YEP) trips, “We actually encourage [EE students] to bring [their friends from other academic schools] over,” he says.
As Mr Dy says, ““In terms of [character development], it has to be two-way. That means we (the staff) will try our best to reach you… but if you (the students) refuse, there is nothing much we can do.”
Additional reporting by Gary Lim, Amrita Kaur and Siti Aisyah
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