Your views

7th March 2014 at 00:00

Are we asking the right questions about character?

An interesting and important debate is emerging about the role of character in schools. I have observed that the hidden cause of debate is not the word "character" but more often the interpretation of the word that comes before or after it: character education, teaching character, learning character, cultivating character, developing character, building character and so on.

For instance, some have expressed concerns that we should be suspicious of the idea of teaching character: it is a simplistic and paternalistic approach that is essentially about moralising, navel-gazing and mind-conditioning, they say. This view tends to be held by those who have a fairly traditionalist view of teaching, or those who assume or suggest by implication that teaching refers largely to a simple transmission of knowledge from teacher to student. Taking that definition, it is a view with which I would have much sympathy.

Others say that we should teach character in schools in the sense that children and young people deserve the opportunity, time and space to think critically and make their own decisions about who they are or who they wish to become - and that schools have a formative role to play. Proponents of this view tend to support the notion that teaching is not simply about imparting knowledge but more about facilitating learning, often by self-directed or progressive methods such as enquiry, experiential learning or critical pedagogy. If we take that view of teaching, again I would tend to agree.

So is this a debate about character or is it actually a debate about teaching?

Gary Walsh

Executive officer of educational charity Character Scotland

See feature, pages 22-26

Short and tweet

#StrathBEd debate - could you pass your Higher exam paper if given it now? Couldn't see one hand up in BA audience.


Love it if someone mentions Plato or Dewey. Now I am like, "Pick me, pick me, I know who they are." #StrathBEd


Dreaming about lesson planning almost two months before placement actually begins! #lifeofastudentteacher #StrathBEd


Passed my final teaching crit yesterday, therefore allowed myself to have a 12-hour sleep last night. #StrathBEd #refreshed #IDidIt


Love my P1 class this year. A lot of EAL [English as an additional language students] so I'm looking forward to the challenge. Also, the children loved my Gruffalo lunch box. #StrathBEd


Time to start planning! If anyone has studied The Gruffalo, your ideas would be much appreciated. #StrathBEd #thegruffalo #planningtime


Letters for publication in TESS should arrive by 10am Monday. Send your letters, ideally of no more than 250 words in length, including contact address and phone number, by email to or by post to TES Scotland, Thistle House, 21-23 Thistle Street, Edinburgh EH2 1DF. Letters may be edited

Subscribe to get access to the content on this page.

If you are already a Tes/ Tes Scotland subscriber please log in with your username or email address to get full access to our back issues, CPD library and membership plus page.

Not a subscriber? Find out more about our subscription offers.
Subscribe now
Existing subscriber?
Enter subscription number


The guide by your side – ensuring you are always up to date with the latest in education.

Get Tes magazine online and delivered to your door. Stay up to date with the latest research, teacher innovation and insight, plus classroom tips and techniques with a Tes magazine subscription.
With a Tes magazine subscription you get exclusive access to our CPD library. Including our New Teachers’ special for NQTS, Ed Tech, How to Get a Job, Trip Planner, Ed Biz Special and all Tes back issues.

Subscribe now