Ontario's Character Development Initiative
What Is Character Development?
Character development is the deliberate effort to nurture the universal attributes upon which schools and communities find consensus. These attributes provide a standard for behaviour against which we hold ourselves accountable. They permeate all that happens in schools. They bind us together across the lines that often divide us in society. They form the basis of our relationships and of responsible citizenship. They are a foundation for excellence and equity in education, and for our vision of learning cultures and school communities that are respectful, safe, caring and inclusive.
Excellence in education includes character development. Through character, we find common ground.
All publicly-funded school boards in Ontario were expected to implement the Character Development Initiative during the 2007-08 school year.
Character Development: Overall Goals
The goal of the Character Development initiative is to develop school environments in which all people – students, teachers, administrators and support staff – treat each other with care and respect. This initiative is based on four essential components: academic achievement, character development, citizenship development and respect for diversity. Specific goals include:
- improved academic achievement
- improved interpersonal relationships
- safe and orderly schools
- reduced behavioural problems
- improved life preparation
- improved employability skills
- positive school cultures
- responsible citizenship in classrooms, schools and communities
Character Development: Expectations
Ontario boards and schools were expected to demonstrate the following in their implementation of character development initiatives:
- board-based consultation with a wide cross-section of the community that reflects its diversity
- a school-wide commitment to model, teach and expect demonstrations of the attributes in all school, classroom and extra-curricular activities
- the intentional infusion of the components of the character development initiative into the policies, programs, practices and interactions within the school and board
- the conditions necessary for student leadership development and opportunities for student voice in the education process
- opportunities for student civic engagement and community involvement that reflect the unique needs of their communities
- a culture which reflects the language and common understandings of character development
- character development practices that are holistic in their intent and reflect the cognitive, affective and behavioural domains of learning
- a deliberate focus on character development in board and school plans with specific alignment with other ministry expectations; for example, Safe Schools, Student Success and other initiatives
The Character Development Symposium:
October 15 and 16, 2006
Ontario's Character Development Initiative was launched at an October 2006 symposium which highlighted research, innovative programs and current practices in Ontario school boards. It featured special forums to engage students in the initial stages of the development of the initiative. Approximately 650 people attended, including teams from boards across the province, and community, business and faith representatives.
Provincial Character Development Resource Teams
Eight character development resource teams were funded from December 2006 through June 2010 to support board implementation processes and practices across the province. Five teams supported English public boards, one team supported English Catholic boards, one team supported French Catholic boards and one team supported French public boards. Boards were encouraged to take advantage of their expertise and of this opportunity to work together as board learning communities.
February to June 2007
The 15 regional forums and 9 capacity-building sessions held across the province from February to June 2007 overwhelmingly supported the need for character development programs in all schools, as well as the focus on shared responsibility for their implementation. Starting in Fall 2007, boards began consultations with their school communities to develop their character development programs.