Wednesday 9 November 2011

Character and Citizenship Education (CCE)

Morals+maths = new way to teach values
Ministry gives teachers a toolkit to help build character in students
By Leonard Lim, The Straits Times, 9 Nov 2011

SCIENCE teachers can get students to discuss the ethical considerations of scientific research and technology.

English language teachers can use an article to get pupils to reflect on values such as care, empathy and respect.

The bottom line is that every subject - not just civics and moral education - offers a window for teachers to build character and a sense of belonging to Singapore.

And in a new drive to emphasise morals-driven learning, teachers will get tips from the Ministry of Education (MOE) via a 195-page toolkit on how to incorporate the teaching of values into lessons.

A recently established Character and Citizenship Education (CCE) branch will oversee the units in charge of moral education, national education and co-curricular activities.

The renewed emphasis on morals-driven learning will prepare students for a future that Education Minister Heng Swee Keat describes as 'more uncertain and more volatile'.

Calling it a total approach, he said at the first CCE conference: 'We have to make the learning of character and citizenship interactive, engaging and allow the pupils to explore and internalise these values.'

Four to five periods a week are being set aside for CCE - which brings together the current civics and moral education curricula, and national education and social and emotional learning programmes.

Schools now allocate roughly the same number of periods to these areas, but they end up as remedial lessons for examinable subjects. CCE will be implemented from Primary 1 to junior college level.

Mr Heng noted that teachable moments occur in and out of the classroom - including during co-curricular activities - and teachers need to catch them.

He drew smiles from the 1,600-strong audience of principals and teachers at Nanyang Technological University when he called it the most difficult 'subject' to teach well. Tests to assess understanding and application of CCE concepts cannot be set, and it is how well they are internalised that will be a barometer.

Tips for teachers in MOE toolkit

He first raised the issue of a values-driven education at the MOE Workplan Seminar in September.

Yesterday, he elaborated on the desired outcome - nurturing persons of good character and responsible citizens who contribute to society. The core values of responsibility, resilience, respect, integrity, care and harmony will provide the CCE foundation.

Over the past five decades, character education in public schools has evolved from textbook teaching to more activity-based learning, such as class debates and community service.

The CCE branch will work on a syllabus and teaching materials linked to life and school events, and provide updated teaching materials.

The MOE toolkit highlights five Ps for effective implementation:

- a clear purpose, so there is a whole-school approach, rather than sporadic events to teach values;

- identifying pupils' profiles and customising programmes to suit them;

- exPerience in ensuring that CCE is internalised by students through its infusion into activities;

- professional development, involving MOE providing training for teachers to deliver the CCE curriculum; and

- fostering partnerships between parents, schools and the community to reinforce values.

Teachers told The Straits Times that more discussion on how values can be incorporated into lessons is needed within their schools.

According to the toolkit, teacher Jason Ng, 39, can provide examples of mathematicians and discuss what drove them to discover principles.

The head of department for mathematics at Chongfu School said: 'Learning about the history of maths is usually done at higher levels, but this is something worth exploring.'

But educators may face some problems in teaching morals, a keynote speaker at yesterday's conference pointed out.

Professor Lee Wing On, the National Institute of Education's dean of education research, said: 'Teachers come to me and say, 'I'm embarrassed, I'm not sure if I'm practising the values that I'm teaching'.'

Parents like Mr Yeap Min Jye, 41, a process manager with two sons aged 10 and five, also wondered if the MOE's push may add to teachers' already heavy workloads. 'Anyway, parents are the most important people when it comes to teaching values, and we must do our part,' he said.

Another question mark hovers over how long it will take for results to show. Mr Heng offered an example in how bamboo trees grow - nothing comes out of the ground for the first four years, but the tree can suddenly reach 27m in the fifth year.

'What is important is that we are heading in the right direction, and many of these changes will take place over time and we just have to persevere.'

Character building in school activities

EDUCATION Minister Heng Swee Keat yesterday highlighted examples of how some schools infuse Character and Citizenship Education into their curricula. Here are some examples:


The school incorporates values education into its English classes by getting pupils to create picture books - many containing moral lessons - for their project work.

The six best works have been made into supersized books that will be used to teach English and values to lower primary pupils.

Separately, it taught pupils about the challenges faced by people with physical disabilities through classroom lessons and a roadshow in June. The school worked with the Singapore Kindness Movement and other voluntary welfare organisations on this project.

During the roadshow, pupils experienced the actual difficulties faced by the visually-impaired and hearing-impaired, as well as those who are wheelchair-bound. For example, they tried eating with blindfolds on and painting without using their hands.


All Secondary 1 and Secondary 2 students take part in a tailored outdoor education curriculum. Held as part of their physical education lessons, the activities include kayaking, abseiling and rock climbing.

The lessons, which started in 2008, help infuse values such as responsibility and respect in an informal setting.


All lower secondary students carry out a community service project based on their interests. They can decide how they want to make a difference to society.

Upper secondary students take the lead in coaching other members of their co-curricular activity groups.

The school also provides training in skills that students would need as active citizens, such as fire-fighting and cardiopulmonary resuscitation.


Primary 1 and Primary 2 pupils are taken through bonding activities such as making class flags for sports day. This gives them the chance to make new friends, work with others and develop a class identity.

Camps are organised for all levels every year, with different themes for each level. For example, the Primary 4 camp focuses on national education, and pupils learn about Singapore's history through outdoor games.


Students reflect and pen their thoughts in a log after they complete activities such as community involvement programmes and school camps.

The feedback received from the students helps the school gauge whether a particular approach is effective. This gives students a chance to shape the way such programmes are carried out for future batches.


The school gives its upper primary pupils the chance to initiate and implement community service projects, such as ongoing service trips to a Batam orphanage.

All pupils are also given leadership roles in school, and are given training for them.

Shaping students in a new environment
The Straits Times, 10 Nov 2011

A CYNIC has been described as a person who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing. The danger that societies will produce cynics is heightened in a global age of hyper-materialism. Hence, it is commendable that the Ministry of Education has renewed its emphasis on morals-driven learning to build character and a sense of belonging to Singapore.

What is particularly welcome is that educationists will scour every subject, from science and mathematics to civics and moral education, for teachable moments. These moments will help them focus on values that will help students grow into ethical, caring, intellectually adventurous and socially aware adults.

They will be able to distinguish between price and value, between the expensive and the invaluable. Needless to add, Character and Citizenship Education (CCE) will always remain a work in progress. Indeed, it will be the kind of progress that cannot be quantified; thus, its effectiveness cannot be judged periodically.

Rather, it is an open-ended exercise that seeks to build an environment for the young. Using a toolkit produced by the ministry, teachers can customise programmes for their students. Some of these are in place in certain schools. The new initiative provides a national platform on which to nurture morally sound students. Indeed, with CCE, learning itself can become a moral exercise in which children are not fixated on the 'how' of things but want to know more about the 'why'. In fact, CCE would ultimately bring a common set of moral values to bear on the curriculum as a whole. That way, it could blunt some of the distinctions students make between 'useful' subjects that destine them for good jobs, and 'easy' subjects that apparently lead nowhere.

All subjects are valuable in such a system because all offer pathways to being good and responsible citizens.

It would also be absurd to think that schools by themselves can be that moral ecosystem. The values and attitudes that children learn painstakingly in school can be destroyed in no time at home. This is so if parents consistently display racial, gender or class bias - or dismiss moral thinking itself as an inconvenience to be suffered between examinations.

Such parents may be a minority, but they can be an extremely destructive minority. Given that children imbibe cynicism from their elders, parents need to support the CCE as an effort to ensure that their children grow up healthy in both body and mind.

MOE: Character and Citizenship Education

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