IT APPEARS some commentators on the importance of moral education lay the responsibility of instilling values in children primarily upon schools (“Build character with daily habits” by Madam Koh Chern Peng; Monday).
For example, when dissecting unsavoury incidents involving young students, many are quick to question if civics education is being given enough emphasis in school, and offer suggestions on how these programmes can be improved.
While this reflects the common belief that schools play a significant role in the moral – and not just academic – education of our youth, the role of parents is often not given much consideration.
Many psychologists have concluded that a child acquires many socio-emotional skills, including the fundamental sense of right and wrong, between the ages of three and five.
Other research suggests that children’s early experiences with their caregivers can shape their personalities and attitudes in later life. All these childhood experiences help lay the foundation upon which an adult’s value system is built.
This then begs the question: Is it reasonable and realistic to place such a heavy responsibility for character formation on the shoulders of our teachers?
Given the amount of time children spend in school, and our schools being billed as institutions of holistic education, there is little doubt that teachers have the platform and influence to develop young minds and characters.
However, it is important to emphasise the equal, if not larger, onus on parents to instil good values in their children from a young age, and reinforce these as they grow up.
A child will pass through many classrooms and learn from different teachers through his formative years. But parents and guardians remain constants throughout a child’s life, and there are as many, if not more, important lessons to be taught at home as there are in schools.
In fact, by understanding the child more intimately, parents are in a stronger position to educate and inculcate values. It would be counterproductive if what is taught in the classroom is ignored or, worse, contradicted by what children observe at home.
The recent changes to the Character and Citizenship Education curriculum have been lauded for introducing more hands-on and effective learning processes.
To better build good character and impart positive values to our youth, these lessons should be complemented and reinforced by the efforts of their parents. This would go a long way towards fulfilling our ideal of holistic moral education for our youth.
Dr William Wan
Singapore Kindness Movement
First published in Straits Times Forum – January 18, 2014