Education for Character Development - Methods of Education for Character Development

Methods of Education for Character Development

Methods of Education for Character Development


At the outset, we need to examine the view that values cannot be taught and, therefore, character development cannot be a subject matter for teaching. It is argued that there is a valid distinction between pursuit of knowledge and pursuit of character development and that while knowledge can be taught, character development falls outside the purview of the teaching process. But when we examine this view more closely, we find that what is meant is that the methods which are valid and appropriate in the field of learning in regard to knowledge are not applicable to the field of learning in the field of values which are central in the process of development of character. We may readily accept this contention, and we may insist on the necessity of recognising the fact that corresponding to each domain of learning there are valid and appropriate methods and that the effectivity of learning will depend upon an ever-vigilant discovery of more and more appropriate methods in each domain of learning. It is clear, for example, that while philosophy can be learned and be taught by a process of discussion, swimming cannot be learned and taught by discussion. In order to learn to swim, one has to plunge and swim. Similarly, the methods of learning music or painting have to be quite different from those by which we learn mathematics or physics. And, indeed, when we come to the realm of character and values, we must recognise the necessity of a greater scruple in prescribing the methods which can be considered to be distinctively appropriate to this field.

Methods of Education for Character Development

Methods of Education for Character Development

One speciality of the domain of character is that it is centrally related to volition and affection rather than to cognition. According to some, education for character development should be exclusively or more or less exclusively limited to certain prescribed acts of volition and that the education for character development should be judged by what a learner does rather than what he knows. This view is, however, too simplistic and exclusive and we should avoid the rigidity that arises from this kind of gross exclusivism. There is also an opposite view according to which learning is primarily a cognitive process and, therefore, all the learning processes connected with character development should largely or preponderantly be limited to those methods which are appropriate to cognition. This view, too, is a gross exclusivism which should be avoided. A synthesis of these two views would result in the recommendation that in the processes of education for character development, methods appropriate to volition and affection should be more preponderant but appropriate methods to cognition also should have a legitimate and even an indispensable place. This is reinforced by the fact that the striving towards values stirs up the totality of the being, and cognition no less than volition and affection is or can be stimulated to its highest maximum degrees, provided that the process of learning involved in character development is allowed its natural fullness.

In any sound process of teaching and learning, three instruments which are available to the teacher are: instruction, example and influence. However, in our present system of education, instruction plays an overwhelmingly important role and often when we think of teaching we think only of instruction. It is this illegitimate identification of all teaching with instruction that causes much confusion and avoidable controversies. If we examine the matter carefully, we shall find

Methods of Education for Character Development

Methods of Education for Character Development

that in an ideal system of teaching, instruction should play a much less important role than example and influence of the teacher. It is true that in the domain of learning where cognitive activities play a more important part, instruction through lecture and discussion may have, under certain circumstances, a larger role. But in this domain of learning, where volition and affective activities play a larger part, instruction through methods other than lectures and discussions should play a larger role.

Unfortunately, our present system of education, being what it is, there is such a rigidity that example and influence can play very limited effective role. In the present rigid and mechanical structure, the centre of attention is not the child but the book, the teacher, syllabus and the examination. The methods which are most conducive to the development of the character of the child such as the methods of self-learning, exercise of free will, individualised pace of progress, etc., do not have even an elbow room. Indeed, if this is the system of education and if we are to remain content with this system of education, most important elements of learning will for ever remain outside the system, and we cannot confidently recommend any effective system of learning, much less any effective programme of character development.

We must, therefore, envisage that sooner rather than later, our system of education will change in the right direction and increasing number of educationists and teachers must come forward to break the rigidities of our educational system. At the same time, we should also institute the right type of training for teachers so that teachers are oriented towards education for character development.

The change that we should envisage must also propose a radical transformation of our present system of examination. Apart from a number of undesirable aspects of our examination

Methods of Education for Character Development

Methods of Education for Character Development

system, the one which is particularly conducive to what may be called "anti-value" is the tendency which promotes the idea that passing of examinations and earning of degree is the aim of education. Radical measures should be adopted to combat this idea and to introduce such changes in our examination system whereby the educational process can remain unalterably fixed on the right aims of education, which must place development of character in centrality. A radical change in the examination system is a necessary condition of any meaningful education for character development.

It is sometimes argued that values can best be taught through the instrumentality of a number of subjects rather than through any specific or special subject, whether we may call it by the name of "moral education" or "ethics" or "value-education". There is no doubt a great force behind this contention and we may readily agree that we must have a well-conceived programme of studies of various subjects which would naturally provide, both in their content and thrust, the requisite materials for character development.

The question, however, is whether our current programmes of studies have been or are being so carefully devised so as to emphasise those aspects which can rightly provide to teachers and students the required opportunities, conditions and materials for character development. A massive work remains to be done in this connection.

At the same time, it may be suggested that even if our programmes of studies of various subjects are revised, there will still remain the specific area of values which should receive a special, although not exclusive, attention and treatment. In other words, there seems to be a good ground to recommend that there should be, in the totality of educational programmes a core programme of value-education and character development. This core programme should, however, be so carefully

Methods of Education for Character Development

Methods of Education for Character Development

devised that various threads of this programme are woven into the complex totality of all the other programmes of studies. The point to be underlined is that the central theme of education for character development would not form a mere appendage of all other subjects but would stand out as the overarching and the supervening subject of basic importance. (On this important subject, a special paper will be presented during the course of this workshop.)

It is sometimes suggested that education for character development or value-oriented education is relevant only to the primary and secondary stages, but not beyond. For, it is argued, children by the time they complete secondary education would have already formed their basic attitudes, their traits of personality and their character, and nothing more needs to be done specially in that direction at the higher levels of education. But this argument misses the point that the important element in the development of character is the development of free-will and of the learner's free and rational acceptance of the value system and directions of the growth of character and personality. And this development can rightly be done only at the higher levels of education, when the learner has developed a will of his own to some extent and when he has basic intellectual and moral and aesthetic sensibilities enabling him to examine the basic values and aims of life.

The fundamental aims of higher education include the pursuit of clarity of thought, search for perfection, irresistible will to realise "summum bonum" and higher humanistic, scientific and professional skills. These are also essential requisites of integral development of personality and character. It is this that necessitates us to recommend that education for character development should also form a central focus of higher education.

Methods of Education for Character Development

Methods of Education for Character Development


The secret of education for character development is the way in which the teacher can inspire and kindle the quest among the students by means of one's own example of character and mastery of knowledge that is relevant to the over-arching importance of character both in the individual life and in the collective life. It is only by embodying values within oneself that the teacher can really radiate values to students.

While laying a great emphasis on the role of the teacher in respect of education for character development, it must be emphasised that education is a sub-system of society, and, therefore, the role of the society in stimulating and supporting aims of character development must be underlined. In this connection, two social actions may be suggested. Firstly, society must place the child in the centre of its attention and declare the sovereignty of the child. It must resolve to bestow upon the child the supreme care that it needs. It will organise all activities and also special activities in such a way that they become vehicles of character development of the child. And, secondly, just as the child always looks to the future, the society, too, will constantly strive to build the paths of the future. Just as child will grow increasingly into the vigorous and dynamic youth, the society also must continue to learn and to mature so as to manifest unfailing youthfulness. The society should recommend to all members to continue to learn and to grow so as to actualise a learning society.


The task of the teacher who aims at the character development of the child is to put the child upon the right road to its own perfection and to encourage it to follow that road, watching,

Methods of Education for Character Development

Methods of Education for Character Development

suggesting, helping, but not imposing or interfering. The best method of suggestion is by personal example, daily conversation and books read from day-to-day. These books should contain, for the younger students, the lofty examples of the past, given not as moral lessons but as things of supreme human interest, and for the older students, great thoughts of great souls, passages of literature, which set fire to the highest emotions and prompt the highest ideals and aspirations, records of history and biographies which exemplify the living of those great thoughts, noble emotions and inspiring ideals.

Opportunities should be given to the students by embodying in actions the deeper and nobler impulses which rise within them.

An informal but profound study of the following questions would prove to be of immense value:

1. What is action? How does it operate normally? Can action be controlled and guided? How can one achieve the maximum effectivity and larger scope of action?

2. To whom should I belong? What is the meaning of allegiance? What is the highest to which my highest allegiance should be given?

3. What is the purpose of the human body? What are the means by which the perfection of the body can be achieved?

4. What are the highest means of knowledge? Is there something, which being known, everything can be known?

5. What is the nature of the mind? How does it operate in (a) scientific thinking, (b) mathematical thinking, and (c) philosophical thinking? Is it possible to attain to a total state of concentration and even to arrive at total silence?

6. How can we arrive at an artistic and creative experience? What is the essence of music? What is the essence of art? What is the essence of literature?

Methods of Education for Character Development

Methods of Education for Character Development

What is the indispensable utility of technology in the human life and its perfection?

hat is the meaning of story? Is history an interesting and meaningful story? Is there an aim in history? What are lessons of history?

What am I? And what is my own specific role in the world? How can I train myself to fulfill this role?

One can formulate many more questions but care should be taken to see that these questions and topics do not get compressed within a rigid framework of a formal study and examination. These are all living questions and the only thing that can be done is to see that they arise spontaneously during the educational process, and the courses of study regarding them develop in an evolutionary way, developing with inner growth of the students. It is best when these questions arise in the context of the living experiences of the students.

The handling of these questions and topics should be informal and the following methods can be suggested:

(a)Each student should be suggested to choose from a list of questions, and he should be free to choose any one of them in accordance with his needs of a deep inquiry;

(b)students should study these questions individually with a possibility of consultation with their teachers when needed;

(c)to enable individual study, the teachers should suggest relevant materials or books, or else he should prepare special worksheets;

(d)informal talks on these questions can be arranged, but they should not take the form of any moral or religious preaching; the temper of these studies should be scientific, interesting and profound;

(e)there should be a room of Silence in every school and college, and students should be free to go to that room,

Methods of Education for Character Development

Methods of Education for Character Development

whenever they wish to have an inner reflection, meditation or quiet study;

(f)seminars on the relevant questions and topics should be held periodically in the schools and colleges and the students and teachers should be encouraged to participate in them;

(g)debates, too, can be organised relating to these questions and topics, but an attempt should be made at the end of every debate to synthesise various points of view; an idea must develop that behind every point of view there is some truth, and we should grow into a comprehensive vision in which all truths can be reconciled and synthesised, and in which all conflicting views can be transcended;

(h)artistic books and sculptural pieces relating to these questions and topics should be displayed prominently not only in schools and colleges, but everywhere in towns, villages, etc.;

(i)other media of communication should also be widely used for this purpose. In particular, society should produce films relating to these subjects and they should be made available to students and teachers;

(j)informality in instruction, joy in learning, utter dedication and strictness in training, and wide comprehension in student-teacher relationship - these will, in brief, govern the methods of learning.

There are aspects of the mental, vital and physical education which contribute to the development of character. The methods in regard to these that have emerged through various experimentations can be suggested as follows:

(i)In its natural state, the human mind is always limited in its vision, narrow in its understanding, rigid in its conceptions, and a special effort is needed to enlarge it, make it supple and deep. Hence, it is very necessary to develop in the child the inclination and capacity to consider everything from as many

Methods of Education for Character Development

Methods of Education for Character Development

points of view as possible. There is an exercise in this connection which gives greater suppleness and elevation to thought. It is as follows. A clearly formulated thesis is set; against it is opposed the anti-thesis, formulated with the same precision. Then by careful reflection the problem must be widened or transcended so that a synthesis is found which unites the two contraries in a larger, higher and more comprehensive idea.

Another exercise is to control the mind from judging things and people. For true knowledge belongs to a region much higher than that of the human mind, even beyond that of pure ideas. The mind has got to be made silent and attentive in order to receive knowledge from above and manifest it.

Still another exercise: whenever there is a disagreement on any matter, as a decision to take, or an action to accomplish, one must not stick to one's own conception or point of view. On the contrary, one must try to understand the other person's point of view, put oneself in his place and, instead of quarrelling or even fighting, find out a solution which can reasonably satisfy both parties; there is always one for people of goodwill.

A wide, subtle, rich, complex, attentive and quiet and silent mind is an asset not only for the discovery of the deeper ethical, aesthetic, psychic and spiritual realities, but also for manifesting their truths and powers.

(ii)The vital being in us is the seat of impulses and desires, of enthusiasm and violence, of dynamic energy and desperate depression, of passions and revolt. The vital is a good worker, but most often it seeks its own satisfaction. If that is refused totally or even partially, it gets vexed, sulky and goes on strike.

An exercise at these moments is to remain quiet and refuse to act. For it is important to realise that at such times one does stupid things and in a few minutes can destroy or spoil what one has gained in months of regular effort, losing thus all the progress made.

Methods of Education for Character Development

Methods of Education for Character Development

Another exercise is to deal with the vital as one deals with a child in revolt, with patience and perseverance showing it the truth and light, endeavouring to convince it and awaken in it the goodwill which for a moment was veiled.

A wide, strong, calm but dynamic vital capable of right emotion, right decision, and right execution by force and energy, is an invaluable aid to the psychic and spiritual realisation.

(iii)The body by its nature is a docile and faithful instrument. But it is very often misused by the mind with its dogmas, its rigid and arbitrary principles, and by the vital with its passions, its excesses and dissipations. It is these which are the cause of bodily fatigue, exhaustion and disease. The body must therefore be free from the tyranny of the mind and of the vital; and this can be done by training the body to feel and sense the psychic presence within and to learn to obey its governance. The emphasis on the development of strength, suppleness, calm, quiet, poise, grace and beauty in physical education, whether done by Yogic Asanas or by other methods of physical culture, such as games and sports, or Japanese Judo and similar exercises, will ensure the contact of the body with the psychic centre and the body will learn to put forth at every minute the effort that is demanded of it; for it will have learnt to find rest in action, to replace through contact with universal forces the energies it spends consciously and usefully. By this sound and balanced life, a new harmony will manifest in the body, reflecting the harmony of the regions which will give it the perfect proportions and the ideal beauty of form. It will then be in a constant process of transformation, and it will be possible for it to escape the necessity of disintegration and destruction.

The role that physical education can play in the development of character has not been sufficiently understood. In our country, physical education has been neglected almost completely

Methods of Education for Character Development

Methods of Education for Character Development

and this neglect is one of the causes of the low morale of the people. It is, therefore, necessary to bring forth the value of physical education not only in regard to the fitness of the body but also for the great contribution it makes for the intellectual, moral and spiritual development of character and personality.

It has been found necessary by recent research in yogic education that students should develop a high sense of physical culture and a bodily need of daily physical exercise. Our programmes in schools and colleges should be so organised that everyday a student is able to devote at least one hour for physical education, either in the form of Yogic Asanas and allied exercises or in the form of gymnastics, athletics, aquatics or games.

There are many sports which help to form and necessitate the qualities of courage, hardihood, energetic action and initiative for skill, steadiness of will or rapid decision and action, the perception of what is to be done in an emergency and dexterity in doing it. Another invaluable result of these activities is the growth of the sporting spirit. That includes good humour and tolerance and consideration for all, a right attitude and friendliness to competitors and rivals, self-control and scrupulous observance of the laws of the games, fair play and avoidance of the use of foul means, an equal acceptance of victory or defeat without bad humour, resentment or ill-will towards successful competitors, loyal acceptance of the decisions of the appointed judge, umpire or referee. More important still is the custom of discipline, obedience, order, habit of team work, which certain games necessitate.

In the words of Sri Aurobindo:

"If they (the above qualities) could be made more common not only in the life of the individual but in the national life and in the international where at the present

Methods of Education for Character Development

Methods of Education for Character Development

day the opposite tendencies have become too rampant, existence in this troubled world of ours would be smoother and might open to a greater chance of concord and amity of which it stands very much in need... The nation which possesses them in the highest degree is likely to be strongest for victory, success and greatness, but also for the contribution it can make towards the bringing about of unity and more harmonious world order towards which we look as our hope for humanity's future."

At higher levels of education, it may be suggested that a critical study of values is itself an essential part of value-education. Exploration of all that mankind has thought on this subject should suitably be presented to the students, so that they have before them a wide spectrum of ideas which they can explore and experiment with. Topics such as man in the universe, aim of human life, concept of progress, definition of values, and ideals of liberty, equality and fraternity could be recommended as a necessary part of a special programme of character development.

Since values are those desirable ideals and goals which are intrinsic in themselves, and which, when achieved, or attempted to be achieved, have a deep sense of fulfilment of one or many or all parts and faculties of personality, it is necessary that the programme of character development should include a study of faculties and capacities that constitute our personality and the correlation of each faculty with its corresponding values.

Science and values should also be an important part of character development. Pursuit of the value of truth through science and self-knowledge as also the correlation of science and values with the theme of progress and welfare of human mind should be an important part of the programme.

Methods of Education for Character Development

Methods of Education for Character Development

A study of ethical thought as also religious and spiritual thought should also be a part of the programme of exploration. These will include the study of good and evil, comparative study of religions, and the psychology of yogic sciences.

Since art is also a great gate to the perception and practice of the value of Beauty, this also should form a part of the proposed programme.

Value of harmony of the human being with nature and ecological balance should also find an appropriate place in the proposed programme.

A study of the value of physical education and of the qualities that make an ideal sports-person should also be treated as an integral part of education for character development.

To fulfil the highest aims of education for character development, the aim that should be put forward before students of higher education is to learn to learn and to learn throughout life so as to arrive in due course a solid mass of knowledge that can illumine, by an incessant downpour of its sheer lustre, the universal skies and the hidden and distant secrets of Matter, a most potent drive of energy and heroic action, and an irresistible bursting forth of love, joy and marvellous forms of beauty. Presentation of this ideal in an effective manner would infuse a new spirit and stimulate education for character development.

Methods of Education for Character Development

Back to Content