Character-based Education: A Proposal for the transformation of Latin America
Cesar Valdez
Cesar Valdez

“Today’s Learner is Tomorrow Leader” – Plato –

After the Cold War, the governments of the Latin American region began to create more awareness about the universal need to redesign their educational models in order to make education more efficient. Together with the countries of the world, Latin America understood that a global agenda was necessary. Everything began in 1990 with the World Declaration on Education for All in Jomtien, Thailand. In the World Forum on Education held in the year 2000 in Dakar, Senegal, a strategic action framework was built, and nations established six concrete objectives for the next fifteen years, to be implemented by 2015. Finally, in the year 2014, the UNESCO World Conference on Education for Sustainable Development was held in Aichi-Nagoya, Japan. The initiatives for a reformation of the different educational systems and the educational policies designed after these global meetings, without a doubt, have explicitly resulted in providing the right to education to the population. As a result of the educational reformations in the countries of the region we are observing a great effort to ensure educational coverage, and improve the quality of education and improve educational systems in general; however, a gap remains. Educational institutions have good results in educating the students for college readiness with the necessary skills to succeed in postsecondary education. Students are learning the standards, and they are showing the competencies; the standardized tests show academic growth, but, is this all enough for a social, political and economic transformation in Latin America? The need remains to include the formation of the student’s character to their education.

“Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education” -Martin Luther King Jr.-

Character-based education

The character is by definition and for our purpose the set of moral and ethical standards that define the beliefs of an individual. These beliefs determine the actions and expectations of the self, as well as the expectations of others. The character becomes a framework that shapes all of the actions of the person. Educational organizations have a great social responsibility to fulfill; on their hands is the task of educating the next generation of thinkers. The leaders and influencers of the next four decades are now sitting in the classrooms; this is a great opportunity and at the same time a  big commitment that we should face diligently.

This weighty commitment calls for a paradigm shift in the educational models of Latin America; we must gradually shift systems of education.  The Greek model of education focused on the content;  the teacher poured information into the student’s mind, and the student was ready to learn what the teacher knew.  This type of teaching was oriented only to the mind and the body; in this method of teaching everything depended primarily on the knowledge of the teacher and the tools that he had available to transfer it to the pupil. In contrast, the type of education  we are moving towards is focused on the character formation of the individual as we have defined above–it is an educational model that produces a student capable of understanding their environment and modifying it, who gives value to interpersonal relationships, who has  highly critical skill, and who is responsible for their actions and the actions of others. Character-based education seeks to train the individual from a holistic perspective. Some of the elements of character-based education are:

  • Character driven educational leaders
  • Collaborative organizational culture and continuous growth
  • Teachers experts in their field
  • High expectations for students
  • A customized curriculum
  • A close relationship with the community
  • Outdoor education

Integration of intellectual skills and character traits

An educational program which includes the formation of character integrates what is necessary for the development of the student in a comprehensive manner.

  • Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
  • Integrity
  • Open-Minded Communicators
  • Honesty
  • Understanding learners
  • Perseverance
  • Collaborators
  • Courageousness
  • Observant creators and innovators
  • Self-discipline
  • Servant Leaders

The movement of education focused on the growth of character is not a utopia, it is a fact; it is happening not only at Doulos Discovery School in the Dominican Republic but also in other countries of Latin America. Organizations are increasingly providing professional development opportunities for educators and schools interested in character-based education. The key to this growing interest lies in the results produced by this type of education. Over the last 15 years at Doulos Discovery School we have seen the results regarding educational efficiency and equipping students for life. Character-based education is a valuable addition for educational organizations interested in raising the next generation of leaders, and we profoundly believe that it is a trend that will continue to gain momentum in Latin America and developing countries.

About the Author

Cesar Valdez is the School Principal of Doulos Discovery School. He earned his Master´s Degree in Education with a concentration in organization and development of educational institutions from Jaen University.As a school administrator, Mr. Valdez collaborates at a board level with TechBeyond Dominican Republic in order to implement transformational education in the country. He also cooperates with other nonprofit organizations dedicated to character formation.

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