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September 29, 2010

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Home » Feature » Education

YCIS Shanghai aims to build good character

BUSTLING from music to math, Chinese class to science, primary students at Yew Chung International School of Shanghai (YCIS Shanghai) are busy and on the go. Behind the scenes, Primary School Coordinator Jeroen Gakes makes sure that one part of their development is not overlooked: good character.

Character-building is one of the core foundations of the YCIS Shanghai's curriculum. Gakes, who has worked at YCIS Shanghai for the last nine years and was involved in the development and implementation of the program, highlights the importance of character-building in a world overwhelmed with diversions and stress.

The innovative program, called Character First, was designed for YCIS Shanghai's primary students, and is spread over four years. The program focuses on 49 character qualities, such as generosity, tolerance, resourcefulness and creativity.

Gakes emphasizes these 49 character qualities collectively boil down to mean "love," so the qualities taught are really just guideposts.

"We all make mistakes," he explains. "But we are trying our best to be better people. This concept has a big impact on a child's life."

The character program is taught through daily class activities, as well as in monthly character assemblies. One student from each class is awarded for the character trait discussed each month.

A key element of the program is the public praise a teacher gives the children when announcing the award - this helps build confidence and also sets an example for other students. Gakes emphasizes that positive encouragement is crucial.

At the monthly character assemblies, teachers often talk about their own lives or relate a story from their childhood. "We always try to find a personal aspect," Gakes says.

The assemblies often include a game or show, as well as stories of how different character traits are demonstrated from various cultures, which aligns with YCIS Shanghai's emphasis on providing an education that is global in content and mind-set.

At the Gubei campus, what immediately stands out is the brightly colored bulletin boards in the hallways highlighting class dedications to character improvement. Each child's photo decorates their "I will ..." handwritten promise to improve a certain trait.

On being punctual, Year 5 student Bridget declares, "I will wear a watch wherever I go, and prepare for unexpected delays." Another student, Heidi, wrote, "I will be prepared for things like school by packing my bags and taking my clothes out for the next day."

Specific approaches to tackle behavior traits give the children measurable, incremental ways to improve on a daily basis.

"Good character will lead to success in later life," Gakes says. "People take note of those who consistently show character, regardless of their degree or job."

Part of the YCIS philosophy is that a solid character education program will prepare students for future challenges, ensuring success in a changing world.


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