Character Scotland is an educational charity formed in 2009 by a group of academics, educationalists and entrepreneurs. Our aim is to support the cultivation of character and values in Scotland, with a particular focus on children and young people.
Our vision: every child and young person flourishing as part of an inclusive, just, compassionate and sustainable society.
Our mission: empower children and young people to be their best and contribute to a better world.
We aim to ensure that no child or young person is disenfranchised from robust, positive and ethical character education, and to explore the complex relationships between character, culture, values and positive youth development. This entails children and young people having access to a supportive environment, culture and ethos; positive role models; the space, time and resources necessary for developing self-awareness; access to activities and an educational curriculum which meets individual needs, rights and responsibilities; an approach to personal development which is holistic, humanistic and humanitarian in nature and meets the requirements of UNCRC. It is about equipping young people with the skills, attributes and attitudes that empower them to develop as global citizens – living in ways that are moral, ethical and sustainable, and the characteristics which allow them to navigate the transitions between education, employment and civic engagement.
What we do
As part of our current funded project, we have two specific objectives. The first is to work with colleagues in education, youth work, communities, organisations and businesses, supporting the collaborative implementation of character and values-based approaches in Scotland. Since May 2013 the charity has been in communication with over 100 organisations and 700 individuals nationally including young people, exploring the impact and potential of character education in Scotland. We have been meeting with individual senior managers and running discussion events with stakeholder organisations, all of which are informing the content of our conference in 2015: Character, Culture and Values.
The second objective is to develop and grow the Inspire Aspire: Global Citizens in the Making personal development programme across Scotland, UK and the Commonwealth. The current iteration of the Inspire Aspire programme began in August 2013 and has since reached 56,000 young people in 41 Nations and Territories across the Commonwealth, including 289 schools and 36,000 pupils in Scotland. The programme is designed to help young people explore and articulate who they are, who they want to be and their vision for a better world. With the support of teachers, families and friends; pupils create a poster using a given template. Each poster depicts the young person’s values, areas of strength and development, inspirations and aspirations.
Character and Scotland
Scotland has a long and intertwined history with character and values. Robert Owen founded the Institute for the Formation of Character at New Lanark in 1816. The country’s history in education is much tied to its culture and underpinning values. Scotland’s traditional aspirations relate to social reform, justice and a shared determination to address broad and general questions relating to philosophy, ethics, economics, technology, humanistic approaches to pedagogy and democracy, espoused by notable thinkers such as Adam Smith, David Hume, Francis Jeffrey, J.G. Lockhart and many others. In this way, Scots have had a profound global impact on economics, science, technology and politics in a way that is disproportionate to its small population.
With the continuing development of Curriculum for Excellence, Scotland is quickly becoming an internationally recognised testing pot for character and values education in terms of both practice & research. Character and values-based approaches are integral to educational policy in Scotland. The purpose of Curriculum for Excellence is to develop young people’s attributes and capacities. Our professional teaching standards are underpinned by the values of social justice, integrity, trust, respect and professional commitment. Character and values education are not new ideas, and their renewed focus is a natural extension of Scotland’s educational history.
Our working model and definitions
We are currently working on the development of a research-informed model for character and values education in Scotland. There is still some work to do but the information below summarises the current thinking.
Character refers to our motivations and capacities to be moral agents and contribute to a better world. It refers to a complex set of psychological characteristics which informs motivation, volition and guides behaviour. There are aspects of our character that arise from genetic influences, dispositions, our environment and social interactions. Character is largely ‘caught’ and aspects of it can also be taught.
Character education is the continual process of learning about ourselves and how we interact with our world. We refer to education here in the broadest of terms which includes the wider learning community. Character education is about learning what inspires us and what we aspire to; exploring our potential and realising our capacity to make a positive difference. We seek to incorporate a ‘systems dimension’ in our approach. By this we mean that character education is not just about individual behaviours: rather it seeks to create the environment, conditions and cultures that promote the cultivation and realisation of positive values and character qualities. Neither is it just a suite of activities that exist in a folder or on the shelf: it is a way of viewing and doing education itself. The approach asserts that the purpose of education is not just about preparing young people for a life of tests, but the tests of life; learning how to BE, as well as THINK and DO.
“Intelligence plus character: that is the goal of true education” Dr Martin Luther King Jr.
Mapping the Domain
The purpose of the graphic below is to map out some of the key concepts and frameworks related to character development.