‘Character grants’, a government scheme developed this time last year, are being offered to educational institutions such as schools, universities and voluntary programmes that demonstrate an ambition to instil qualities like resilience, respect, confidence, optimism, honesty, integrity and conscientiousness in their students.
Those institutions that offer a wide range of activities to foster these attributes are praised for their ability to offer a well-rounded learning experience and could be offered a share of the £6 million that is up for grabs.
The most desirable features of contenders for the grant last year were outlined by the government in a press release from January 2015. These included: staff/skill development, classroom innovation and strategy of teaching and learning, bespoke activities revolving around character development, extra-curricular activities (such as sports, music or debating), community projects such as those with local charities, peer-to-peer support and character building for people with special needs.
The grant has almost doubled in size over the past year due to the success of previous projects such as the premiership rugby course that allowed disadvantaged students the chance to train with some of the best coaches in the world.
Children and Families Minister Edward Timpson advocated the implementation of the grant by saying:
“Instilling positive character traits and academic excellence are 2 sides of the same coin – children that develop resilience are far more likely to succeed, not only in school but in later life, too.”
This seemed to be a contorted echo of what Nicky Morgan, the Education Secretary said only a year earlier in her announcement of the grant. When commenting on the expected outcome of the grant she had this to say:
“It [the grant] will cement our position as a global leader in teaching character and resilience, and will send a clear signal that our young people are being better prepared than ever before to lead tomorrow’s Britain.”
The avenue that the department of education has followed for improving the leadership quality of youngsters in the UK has this year taken the form of a militaristic passage. It has been announced that one third of the £6 million reserved for the grant will be awarded to bodies that demonstrate a strong militaristic ethos.
This would surely encourage the younger generation to appreciate the values that such countries as Switzerland, Norway and Finland incorporate, where military service is mandatory. Incidentally, two of the most successful educational systems in the world, South Koreas’s and Finland’s, both require their sons to undergo military service for at least one year.
Whilst this could prove to be a novel approach to the ‘devolution of the education in the UK’ as the MBC Times put it, the rigidity that militarism begets may be detrimental to the very thing that the grant is aiming to improve, character.
The positive reinforcement that this ‘character grant’ will award to the most subjugated institutions is not in keeping with the more common definition of the word ‘character’, which is referred to by the Cambridge English Dictionary as ‘qualities in a person that make them different from others’.
It is yet to be seen whether this clear attempt to promote chastisement of the young for their unruliness will be aspired to or avoided.