By Dr Charles Margerison
Educators and policy makers indicate that it is important to help students develop their character as well as their knowledge. Although guidelines have been written and research has been conducted, teachers say there is a need for more practical classroom resources. Also, a focus on knowledge acquisition needs to be matched by knowledge application. Both require what I refer to as ‘can do spirit.’ To engage students, a new approach linked to music has been established via a virtual group called The Can Do Kids Band.
The Can Do Kids Band resource suite is based on the exploits of a virtual teenage student band who fly from country to country. Along the way, they ‘follow the music and learn‘ about the country, culture and the people in each place they visit. In that way, they can help students widen their understanding of the world around them as they show ways of making friends with people from different lands. This article outlines the background policies and principles and the ways that teachers can use the ‘can do spirit approach.
Schools are preparing students for life and work, which will enable them to cross both country and professional borders. Intercultural learning is therefore becoming more of a priority.
The Erasmus Foundation supported by the European Union provides courses for teachers on intercultural learning.
In the UNESCO Constitution, the founding member states declare as indispensable, the “wide diffusion of culture and the education of humanity for justice and liberty and peace”, and commit to the development of “the means of communication between their peoples and to employ these means for the purposes of mutual understanding and a truer and more perfect knowledge of each other’s lives”.
The Society for Intercultural Learning and Training and Research (SILTAR) includes members across the world, to encourage a better understanding between countries, cultures and communities.
In 2019. The Department of Education in the UK published the following character development requirements to support student development and intercultural understanding.
In addition, it is equally important to understand and make positive relationships with people from different countries and cultures. This reflects the aim set forth by the Council for Europe White Paper on Intercultural Dialogue in 2008, which indicated the importance of improving the intercultural confidence and competence of students.
Teachers have raised questions on how intercultural learning can best be introduced. It is not normally part of the central curriculum and therefore does not always get prioritised in terms of time allocated. As a result, our organisation decided to develop an innovative approach by inventing our virtual music group. The Can Do Kids Band inspires students’ intercultural learning through their virtual visits to various countries. The group of five musicians come from India, China, Australia, USA and South Africa. Their motto is ‘follow the music and learn.’
As they tour and play the music of Russia, Brazil, Japan, Australia, India, France, Mexico and many other nations, they share the culture and customs linked to the stories behind the songs and dances. We have made these stories into E-music books that students can study on their digital devices. Also, on our specially designed web site for schools, we provide the ‘Explorer Guides’ for each country. These guides provide teachers and students with insight and understanding to the environment and economy of each country as well as the history, geography and demographics. In this way, it is possible to cover mainstream curriculum topics as part of intercultural learning.
It is widely recognised that students need to learn more than curriculum content to pass examinations. Developing a student’s character is an integral part of their learning. However, teachers have raised questions on how such matters can be best addressed.
The UK Government published a Character Education document in November 2019. It highlights four key areas – Spiritual, Moral, Social and Cultural, referred to as the SMSC factors.
In the USA, Character Education has been widely studied from the early research by Hartshorne and May, who focused on the situational issues arising.
The attitudes of students determine what they achieve. If they have a positive ‘can do’ approach, they will be willing to explore and test ideas and applications. If they have negative attitudes, they are likely to talk themselves out of opportunities.
In our resource suite, The Can Do Kids explore and learn how the songs and dances of the various countries visited, originated. For example, the music of the slaves influenced jazz. Latin American music reflects the influence of Spanish and Portuguese settlement in South America. Folk music in each country provides insights into the history and culture.
The ultimate test of who we are is what we do. Behaviour speaks louder than words. Therefore, helping students develop the ‘can do spirit’ will enable them to convert knowledge into action.
The Can Do Kids Band is a way to help students be curious and learn with and from people of other cultures and communities. The resource supports diversity, understanding and the respect for different ways of life.
The ‘can do spirit’ they exemplify provides students with virtual role models of how to adopt a proactive approach to intercultural relations and achievement.
Council of Europe 2008 – Intercultural Dialogue – White Paper.
United Nations Constitution
Hartshorne, Hugh. “Sociological Implications of the Character Education Inquiry.” American
Journal of Sociology 36, no. 2 (1930): 251-62.
Hartshorne, Hugh, Mark A. May, and Julius B. Maller. Studies in the Nature of Character:
Studies in Service and Self-Control. Vol. 2. New York: The MacMillan Company, 1929.
Hartshorne, Hugh, Mark A. May, and Frank K. Shuttleworth. Studies in the Nature of Character: Studies in the Organization of Character. Vol. 3. New York: The MacMillan Company, 1930.