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Questions and Answers

What is character education?

Character education is a deliberate effort to cultivate positive personal attributes and civility among students. It is a whole-school effort to create a community in which positive attitudes, values and behaviours are fostered. These qualities are promoted explicitly, modeled, taught, expected, celebrated, and continuously practised in every day actions. In short, character education is the promotion of universally desirable qualities such as respect, responsibility, honesty and integrity.

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Why does the York Region District School Board support character education?

York Region’s secondary schools are safe, dynamic places that emphasize high standards and academic excellence. Equally important is the knowledge and understanding of how to build and sustain effective personal and workplace relationships, and how to participate responsibly and effectively in a civil society. By incorporating character education into existing curriculum in an intentional and systematic manner, our schools can help foster the democratic ideals of citizenship, justice, thoughtful decision-making, and enhanced quality of life.

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What are some of the Board’s specific goals for character education?

Through a continuous and systematic focus on positive character attributes as part of the day-to-day life of the school, the Board seeks to achieve:

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How can character education improve the school environment?

Character education promotes student learning by laying a foundation for academic success. A continuous focus on positive character attributes can help build classrooms where students are ready to learn and teachers are freer to teach. It offers both a proactive framework for the prevention of negative or anti-social behaviours and attitudes, as well as a reactive basis for intervention as problematic behaviour arises, and the administering of consequences should negative behaviour persist.

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Has research demonstrated that character education can make a difference?

In recent years, character education principles have been adopted in countries throughout the world, including Denmark, Korea, Japan, England and the United States. While research into the effects of character education is still in its early stages, the potential and impact of character education has been widely affirmed by schools that have adopted a character education focus. Where it has been implemented, character education has been associated with:

These findings have been verified by parents, students and community members from York Region through visits to schools in which character education was being implemented.

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What does character education look like in a classroom?

Character education will be interwoven through every aspect of school life, from how students and staff members greet one another to how literature and social studies are discussed, to expectations of conduct in sports. An English teacher may pay special attention to the character traits of a character in a novel or may point out such attributes as initiative, empathy and fairness in a poem. A math teacher may stress the perseverance of those students who have worked hard to improve. A science teacher may stress the importance of being responsible as a member of a lab group. A history class may spend time examining issues of the courage and perseverance of various cultural groups throughout history. For character education to be effective, it must call upon the best practices in education. The curriculum involving peer mentoring may stress empathy and optimism. In all subject areas, at all levels of the Ontario Curriculum, teachers are encouraged to seize the “teachable moment” in daily experiences and interactions to focus class attention on issues of character development.

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How will character education affect teaching schedules and workload?

There are many opportunities to incorporate a focus on character attributes within the Ontario Curriculum without the addition of new teaching resources or scheduling. Character education is not a separate subject. Rather it is a strategy that incorporates guiding principles into the existing curriculum and into daily experiences and interactions. The guiding principles for character education can be easily applied to any subject as opportune moments arise.

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Shouldn’t character education rest with the family and spiritual leaders?

The York Region District School Board believes that character development is primarily the responsibility of parents and families. Schools can play an important supportive role by insuring that character development is valued and highlighted in the daily lives of students. The principles of character education incorporate universal values that are common to all religious and ethnocultural groups. As part of the development of York Region District School Board’s approach, we made sure that a wide cross-section of our community – business and religious leaders, parents, students, teachers and school council chairs - had an opportunity to discuss and select the attributes that form the basis of our character education focus.

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What character attributes are to be emphasized in the curriculum?

The ten attributes that will be emphasized in the York Region District School Board are:

These attributes were chosen through an extensive consultation process involving parents, families, educators, community members, religious leaders and business partners in a series of regional forums.

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How will the Board measure the impact of character education?

There are a number of different indicators such as student achievement, suspension rates, attendance, incident reports and other school data that may be used to establish baseline data. The York Region District School Board is committed to monitoring the effects of integrating character education into the life of our schools.

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Where does the York Region District School Board derive its mandate to deliver character education?

Ontario schools operate against a backdrop of growing public concern about community safety, responsible citizenship, common decency and respect. Character education is directly aligned with educational and social policy directions.

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How does the community benefit from character education?

Students who adopt positive character attributes become reliable, productive employees and active, responsible participants in community life. The convening of a Mayor’s Forum, entitled Building Communities of Character, at this year’s Quest For Character Conference, recognizes the interest and commitment of political, social, justice, faith and business leaders in York Region to supporting character education.

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Thank you for your interest in Character Education. Please continue The Quest!

 
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