By Antonius Agus Sulistyono
Jan 3rd, 2018

Education helps us to build the character and cognitive skills of our students.  Building the character of students is one of the main goals in every school in the world. Why is character so important for our students? This question is not easy to answer, however, it is important to note that character can become a valuable asset to a nation. For example: if in one nation there are a lot of people who are undisciplined, dishonest, or maybe disrespectful, sooner or later this will affect the nation’s economy, society, politics, culture and may even result in a more complex problem.

What is character? According to Thomas Lickona’s Character Education Theory, a person has character if they know, they love and they carry out the values of life. I will share one story to explain the importance of character. At the moment, Radit knows the value of discipline, he also loves discipline, but if he doesn’t exercise discipline in his own life, he is characterless.  So, a person who has character not only stops when they know and love, but a person must also carry out the values of life which become his commitment in every activities, everywhere and in every moment.

In order to help build the character of our students, in St. Petrus Canisius Minor Seminary of Mertoyudan, Indonesia, we have been creating  a lot of character-building programmes. Firstly, everyday, our students carry out a reflection. That reflection becomes a part of character-building to find God in all things.  So with this programme, students can find the values of life, for example: Joko failed his exams, so with the help of reflection he could find the purpose God has for his life and with this purpose begin to study more diligently.  Secondly, we have been carrying out a public speaking programme in three languages (Java, English and Indonesia language). Through public speaking, students can learn to be confident, disciplined, have respect for others, be humble, and study diligently.

Thirdly, in geography learning, the students plant lots of vegetables in the garden of the school. What is the correlation beetwen planting vegetables and character? By planting vegetables our students learn to respect the process of life and growth. They learn to remain loyal to the process, put in a lot of effort to help the plant grow, cooperate with other students, and they learn to respect the environment like Laudato Si by Pope Francis teaches us.

Finally, there is a blood donation programme available every six months.  This helps to build the students’ character to care for others who need a blood tranfusion.

How can we make sure these values become internalized in order to become part of the character of our students? In order to internalize these values of life from these programmes, students must continue to carry out these actions until they become habbits for them. In this programme, students not only learn to know and to love the values of life, but the students must also apply these values in real life situations. For example, to donate blood, plant vegetables, respect other students while they are giving a presentation and reflect to find the purpose of God in their everyday life. That’s character.