1 Universal Values, 2 Global Understanding, 3 Excellence, 4 Service to Humanity

Beyond Character:
The Global Education Model for Schooling (GEMS)

CGE believes that education in the 21st century needs to be radically different from the 19th century models of education we have become accustomed to. In this new model, called the Global Education Model of Schooling or GEMS, universal values are embedded in the framework of education itself. Becoming "good" or virtuous is given more importance than becoming "smart" or competent, though both are considered important aspects of education, in this new century.

CGE believes that while training in character must come first, simply adding character training to an outdated educational system will not produce a sufficient enough response to the needs of the individual and society in the 21st century. It is an inadequate response to the crisis facing our children and our world. For example, the perpetrators of Littleton and Kosovo were little children not long ago. Can character education programs really fix the troubles faced by our children today?

Even the best programs that integrate character education - for example, by integrating character teaching within the individual subjects, or creating a climate and environment of character and values within the school community, there still remain major gaps between what is possible and what is being accomplished. Character and moral education programs, by and large, because they are built-up on essentially old systems of education, produce inadequate and uncertain outcome.

Needed is a new education for a new and enlightened world, with new goals incorporated within its framework for the individual, society and the world - goals that completely redefine what it means to be successful in the new century. They also redefine our expectations of human potential and its outcome.

Education needs to be viewed fundamentally in a different way and its underlying ethics re-examined completely. Adding good ideas to a fundamentally inadequate education will not produce the results we seek from it. One cannot build a round tower on a square foundation suited for another purpose. A new foundation has to be built based on a new expectation, a new ethic, a new objective - the transformation of human potential for social good.

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School Must Be a Lighthouse and Teachers Exemplars

Many governments around the globe are increasingly incorporating character and moral education. What suddenly has prompted schools to integrate character and moral training in their programs, which could have been done many years ago? Thinking beyond the present is critical to enable us to build a new reality. In planning a new education, we must not think of the present, but plan for a better future tomorrow, and help mold such a future through education. After all, children are the future. A child born today will enter the job market in 20 years or more from now. It will also be a vastly different world he will inherit. Education must plan for such a future and help create a better world at the same time.

Schools must not follow others. Instead, they must set new standards and lead others in society. In their new roles, schools must become the lighthouse of society. Through the portals of such a school, not only the child but the entire community must be educated.

In such a model of schooling, teachers must be the torchbearers, showing the way. In this role, they must not only be the most honored and well-paid individuals in a society, they must also respond to this high station by exhibiting high moral character, dignity, nobility and the highest exemplary qualities. This way, they will earn their rightful role in society, as exemplars of mankind.

Every child must be viewed as potentially the light of this world.

Innovation in Education

Innovation in education has been limited to adding on some good ideas to the old molds. In the best schools, such new aspects have been incorporated as project and group work, multiple ways of teaching (based on the concept of multiple-intelligences), cooperative games etc. Some schools have experimented with multiage classrooms and other structures.

Despite these innovations, education has remained predominantly an industrial model, in which children are divided by age and grades into career streams. Despite new innovations, and after more than a century of its existence, the goal of education as we know it, has remained intact - which is, to prepare students for the workplace. Schools worldwide are busy perfecting this old and archaic system of education.

Good ideas are often added to an educational landscape that has become the equivalent of a graveyard, in which more is constantly added but very little is taken out. More and more is required from the educators who feel burdened by the new requirements. Fads also come and go, such as the values clarification of the 70's. While some teachers have begun to see the value in the recent crop of character education programs, life skills learning, moral education, learning for life and other such programs, and while they recognize the importance modeling the values they promote for the children, for many teachers, these become yet again, the ever-increasing requirements in the graveyard of current education.

Instead of true innovation, one finds good ideas are added on to a old system whose goals are at odds to the goals of a new century. Consequently, they do not produce the impact we seek from them. For example, it yields only limited results when cooperative learning is added on to an education built on the premise of competition. When relative distinctions based on marks and grades are the end results in a competitive environment of a schooling process, how can such an education simultaneously produce cooperating individuals?

It is interesting also, that though the job requirements have changed dramatically over the decades but education systems have not fully responded. Transcripts from a university that show grades in the various subjects, do not tell a prospective employer if a graduate can do the job they need him to do. Many businesses teach the skills they need to have, and instead of hiring for grades, they hire for attitude. In some countries, up to half the content taught is either simply inaccurate or unnecessary while the necessary skills do not feature on the transcripts and certificates because these are not the direct objective of education. For example, the 1991 SCANS report based on an extensive review of workplace needs showed skills the employers are looking for across a vast spectrum of jobs, such as the ability to work with others. These are simply implied in the educational process at best.

GEMS program, even in the traditional schools, places much more importance on such aspects as: learning to work with others, to take a task from concept to reality, to overcome the difficulties along the way, to be resourceful, to be a team player, to listen well, to search for win-win solutions, to develop a love for learning, to do one's best, to be self-critical, to have the will power to complete tasks and the responsibility to do them well. Such an education also nurtures respect and compassion that must be a part of every child's education.

While many of these aspects can be added to traditional schooling processes, the impact is simply not as great as it would be if these were equally important goals of education. Real impact will come when educational systems are designed around these goals. Such an education will deal with the whole human being, not just some aspects of his development and will prepare an individual for life, not just a job.

Innovation in education has in the past focused on changes at the margin - for example, on such aspects as how to improve test scores and improve teaching methods, better prepare teachers to communicate the content, and how to integrate technology to help children learn faster, among others. The content itself is rarely questioned.

An unstated goal in education seems to be "to make children smarter sooner." And yet, results have not been rewarding. For these reasons and more, in GEMS, a different set of values is given importance. GEMS framework for education provides much greater motivation in the learning process, and brings about more excellence as well.

Instead of fixing up the equivalent of the old steam engine in education, what we need is to develop a rocket technology that will help us land in a new and brighter century in which cooperation will be valued more than competition, in which compassion will be more important than competence and in which being a "good" human being will be more important than being a "smart" human being. It implies rewriting more or less completely the goals of education as we know it, and its outcome for the individual, the workplace and society. A steam engine never goes upwards, even if we fix it to perfection. What we need is a prototype of a rocket technology in education.

Clearly, there is a need to go back to the drawing board and ask these questions once again: why education (goals and outcomes)? what education (content)? and only after these two have been answered, then how education (structures, methods and processes)? True innovation in education means the building up of a whole new technology of education for the new century, with a new vocabulary, new requirements, new outcomes, new structures and new systems altogether. It does not mean one cannot take from the past. However, new goals will best determine what stays, what´s added and what goes out of traditional models of schooling.

Given an opportunity, a new system of education based on these new goals and outcomes from the process of education, will produce better results than the traditional models of the past, which limit human potential and its growth greatly.

Going Back To the Drawing Board

Despite growing expenditures on education in every nation, and progressive educational policies in most countries, children are less motivated to learn today than they were 20, 30 or 40 short years ago. They are also more likely to disrespect their elders, disregard the rights of others, lack compassion, kindness and a sense of responsibility compared to children a few decades ago. What has gone wrong? What indeed can fix these problems faced by our children and our youth today? Where and how does one begin to build a new reality? What will trigger the changes in a different direction? Why?

A Chinese Proverb states:
"If we do not change direction, we are likely to end up where we are headed."

The most urgent need is for us to go back to the drawing board and honestly re-examine the fundamental questions that we have forgotten to ask in the planning of education such as, what should be the purpose of education in the light of human potential, what is conducive to human nobility, how does one discover one's true self and what is the purpose of life. When we ask the right questions, we will begin to discover the right solutions. Thinking afresh and out of the box is not easy when decades of all pervasive education has taught us to think in certain set ways about education. However, if we are to create a new model of education more suited to the needs of the 21st Century, we must first ask these questions and prepare ourselves to find new solutions guided by the needs and exigencies of this day and age.

GEMS - Four Essential Building Blocks of a New Education

For these reasons, the Council for Global Education suggests that beyond character training, education should focus on at least these four fundamental building blocks: Universal Values (of which character education is a part), Global Understanding, Excellence in All Things, and Service to Humanity. We view these as essential building blocks of a new education for a new and better world.

Every child worldwide should be provided such an education, much in the same context as their human rights that must be honored. This is because, a child deprived of such an education, is less likely to lead a satisfying and meaningful life for themselves, their families, the workplace and society. Such an education also produces socially conscious and motivated individuals, who are capable of leading meaningful and contributing lives. Individuals who become not only good family members and employees, they also become leaders of thought, and job creators instead of job seekers. They are able to distinguish right action from wrong action and right thought from wrong thoughts. They are able to work proactively towards new goals and work with others in the process. They are able to create the circumstances for an ever advancing civilization, in which each new generation creates more possibilities for the betterment of life on earth, governed by principles such as the equality of all peoples of the earth and respect and reverence for all forms of life on earth, among others.

If a child is deprived of Universal Values, the child is like a barren tree. Universal values are character and value traits that can be agreed upon in each culture or society, such as respect and responsibility. We know that a beautiful garden full of fruitful trees, flowers and shrubs, if left to the random forces, can in time be destroyed by weeds. Just like a garden needs the daily care of a loving gardener to be free of weeds, so must the children get an environment of daily nurturing, support and guidance. Just like a young plant needs the supporting stick to allow it to grow straight and plentiful, so must the young child be supported by guidance from the adults around them, especially the parents and the teachers, who must first and foremost be an example of these values. If they do not provide the daily pruning and nurturing and a solid foundation of values by their own behavior and example, children will be greatly affected by the random forces of peers, television and irresponsible adults. Through GEM, CGE promotes a solid foundation of universal values. In this model, importance is given therefore, to becoming "nice" before "wise".

Similarly, a child needs to learn how to become an effective member of a family, community, nation and the world. Global Understanding is an essential building block in the 21st century. Every child must learn the skills of coexistence. Beyond the pragmatics, they must learn to appreciate beauty in the diversity of the human race, and they must learn to have respect and reverence for all forms of life on earth. A child who is not provided a global perspective will not be effective within the framework of the inevitable and emerging global community. Mere tolerance is not enough, proper communication skills and true understanding of the interconnectedness of all human beings must be taught and understood.

Excellence in All Things redefines the term "excellence". It implies an important shift in the way education is viewed. In this model, every child is potentially the light of this world. Each and every child is a mine rich in gems of inestimable value. It is the purpose of education is to bring out the qualities in the gem that are hidden within it, even when it appears on the outside to be a stone. It is essential that a child is not deprived of viewing himself as the most capable. Education needs to acknowledge that every child is unique and can make a unique contribution to the betterment of the world. Each child has the potential to be a Mahatma Gandhi, an Abraham Lincoln and a Martin Luther King. These were not the best students in their schools, and yet they wrote history and made the world a better place. Excellence must be defined more broadly to include those characteristics that make a man contribute for the betterment of the world, in conscious and creative ways. When education can redefine excellence and recognize the potential of each and every child to become great, we know we will have come a long way.

In this new definition, excellence is also redefined as competition with oneself, not simply others.

We are holding children back with limited expectations of human potential, and by our own limited assessments of what is "excellent" and "age-appropriate". By defining 'A' as excellent when in fact a child has not done his best, is simply setting the bar too low. In addition, in this model, it matters less how a child did compared to others in the same age or grade. It matters more if the child is making progress against his own potential in every aspect and is developing in every possible way, that they are competing with themselves, to do their very best, to set new goals for themselves, and to meet them. In such an education, excellence itself becomes a value and a child enjoys the very act of learning and perfecting.

To accomplish this, assessment is radically modified in the GEMS program. In a Global Education Model School, relative distinctions are given less importance than improvements made against one's own potential. Both achievement and effort are rewarded but improvement over one's own accomplishments is given the highest importance. In such an education, striving for excellence and doing ones best against one's own potential becomes an inherent value built into the educational system.

GEM provides direction and motivation beyond the traditional systems and creates more excellence as well. This finding has been supported, among others, by results of the CMS Schools in Lucknow, India, the World's largest school with over 27,000 students in the session 2003/04. While constrained by the curricular requirements of the state and federal governments (governments traditionally have become gatekeepers to the old and archaic system of education), and the state and national examinations that emphasize the old and established patterns of education, these schools have done a tremendous job of nurturing the human potential differently. CMS education has expanded the envelope of what is possible from the traditional systems. It has shown that when excellence becomes a value, children will excel beyond our expectations.

Service to Humanity, the fourth building block of a new education, is more than "service learning". In essence, service learning has been viewed typically as a way to teach the subjects a teacher need to teach, through a service project - hence learning the same content as they are required to learn, but through service to the community. While there are huge benefits of teaching service including gaining additional confidence that a classroom setting alone cannot provide, we define service beyond these aspects. In the GEM, children must view themselves as preparing for a life in which service is not a specific act or a guilt-ridden action, but a way of life. In addition, when they emerge from such an educational program, children will begin to view all their work in a spirit of service to humanity. Service is born out of genuine concern and a will to be of service to humanity - to considering the welfare of others and to seeing one's benefit in the benefit of the community and the world at large. This is a dramatic shift to the current definitions of service learning.

(These are views of Dr. Sunita Gandhi, Founder, The Council for Global Education. They are going to be discussed along with upbringing issues in her forthcoming book Home a Harbor, School a Lighthouse, co-authored with her mother, Dr. Bharti Gandhi, Ph.D., M.Ed., Child Psychologist and founder of world-renowned CMS School in India, which is the World's largest school in a city with over 27,000 students from pre-K to Grade 12, along with a recently added Degree College for Girls.)




Copyright © 1998- The Council for Global Education.
These are views of the CGE. They can be used in conjunction with free membership to CGE with acknowledgment of the source.