THE ROLE OF EDUCATION IN CULTIVATING CHARACTER OF PROFESSIONAL LEADERS IN 21ST CENTURY
By Muchlas Samani
State University of Surabaya
Paper Presented on International Cadet Seminar at Indonesian Navy Academy,
Surabaya-Indonesia, July 19, 2017
Many experts say the problem that often becomes an obstacle in the development of a nation is a bad character. Therefore it was very precise, when in the early independence of Indonesia, Bung Karno as the President of Republic of Indonesia launched the character and nation building. He believed to build the Indonesian nation that had been colonized for a very long time it needs to build its character first as the foundation of nation building (https://historia66.wordpress.com/bung-karnocharacter-and-nation-building).
Paralelly, in composing the national anthem Indonesia Raya WR Supratman put the phrase "build up his soul" earlier than the phrase "build up his body". Some experts interpret the sequence is intentional with the belief that building the soul (character) must be done in advance, so that the development of the physical field can run smoothly (https://jenahudin.wordpress.com/makna-lagu-kebangsaan).
Based on the above principles, Indonesia deliberately put character education as an important part in preparing the future generations. Law on National Education System (Law no. 20/2003), article no.3 mentions that the aims of education is to develop the potential of learners to become human beings who believe and fear Allah Almighty, have noble character, healthy, knowledgeable, skilled, creative , Independent, and become a democratic and responsible citizens. Five of the eight learning outcomes to be achieved in education are character values.
Character education is very important for preparing the future leaders, since a leader must be a role model for others and for his/her society. A leader must have a strong character, because only with a strong character that one is able to influence and move others (Northouse, 2016). With a strong character the leader can influence and can be an inspiration for his subordinates as well, so the principle of guiding not rowing can be applied smoothly (Sarma, 2009). With a strong character, a leader is not easily influenced by the precarious situation faced by, so that they can think clearly and make the right decisions (Rietsema & Watkins, 2012). Therefore, character education should be one of the main components in preparing leaders. In leadership, character and competence are like two sides of a coin that can not be separated and mutually reinforcing. (Samani and Haryanto, 2012). How to prepare leaders to have a strong character in a highly open era and pervasive digital age?
Character Education Must be up to Moral Action
Lickona (1991) mentions that the formation of characters through three stages, namely moral knowing, moral feeling and moral action. Someone who understands a character value (moral knowing) does not automatically feel obliged to carry out (moral feeling). Someone who feels obliged to carry out a character value, does not automatically implement it in everyday life (moral action). Character education must be up to moral action, in the form of everyday behavior, when people apply the values of the character without coercion. Thus, using Bloom's taxonomy, character education includes three domains comprehensively, namely cognitive, affective and psychomotor. According to Ki Hajar Dewantara, the three domains must be a unity and should not be separated, so that education can cultivate a perfect human behaviors (Taman Siswa, 1977). The application of character values should become a habit of everyday life, so that they are spontaneously practiced without having to think about the profit-losses (Rubin, 2015)
How the character developed, Soedarsono (2000) explains that one's character is the interaction between identity (nature) with the environment. This opinion is in line with the theory of convergence in education, which states that the learning outcome (in the form of character) is a blend between talent (nature) with the learning environment. The basic nature is an innate that can not be changed, the function of education is to provide a learning environment so that the basic nature will interact with the good environment, so when transformed into characters, it becomes noble characters expected. This is the importance of education in shaping the character, including character for future leaders (Samani and Haryanto, 2011).
In that context, the environment is everything that meets and interacts with someone. The environment can be people, things, events and anything which become the source of information for someone. That information is what in Lickona's theory becomes a matter of moral knowing. Moral knowing can be positive if it becomes a positive stimulus for character growth on the contrary, it can be negative if it turns out to be a stimulus for negative characters. Character education function is to design a conducive environment so that students will obtain information to cultivate a certain noble character (Samani & Haryanto, 2011).
Related to this, Samani et al (2012) study found social media (newspapers, television, internet and so on) has a very strong and even stronger effect than school / campus. Many children do things because they imitate what they read and or see in social media. Young people who are seeking self-existence prefer to imitate new things compared to things that have been standardized. Parents and teachers usually deliver more normative stuff, while social media show new things and that's what young people then imitate. Therefore an effort is needed to arrange for social media to play an active role in character education, by presenting articles, pictures and impressions that can help to develop noble character for readers and viewers.
Self-identification is very strong in the process of character building (Samani et al, 2015). Young people tend to imitate and identify themselves with the figures idolized. Therefore, the existence of exemplary figures becomes very important in character education. It should be noted, however, that the characters can not be proffered or invoked by force. Young people often have their own judgment whether a person or a fictitious figure is worthy of being an idol or not. Young people often have their own criteria in choosing an idol, thus causing the figures presented by teachers and parents are not accepted and instead they choose their own idolized figure. Parents and teachers/lecturers must understand the criteria used by young people, in order to choose a figure that can be accepted as a model by the children or students.
The Challenge of Digital Era
In 21st century era supported by digital technology, human mobility is very dynamic. We can see more and more foreigners who work and do other activities in Indonesia. On the contrary, more and more Indonesian people work and do activities in other countries. Gradually but definitely, Indonesia will be part of what Ohmae (1999) calls the global village. Thus, our society will come from different cultural backgrounds and characters.
Digital technology causes a change in work pattern, so that the growing competence in the community also changes. The Economist (2015) study found that the five most important competencies in the digital age are critical thinking, problem solving, communication, team working, and creativity. If such competencies continue to grow in society, then gradually we will become an educated society who always think critically and creatively.
Digital technology also has a strong influence on communication patterns and social interactions. In the digital era, we have a very wide of open information. With smartphone people can easily get any information as desired. With smartphone people can communicate with their counterparts in the other hemisphere. With the google translate facility, people can communicate with their colleagues even though they use different languages.
According to Schmidt & Cohen (2013) more than half the earth's population is connected to the internet and that number will continue to increase. In war-torn regions, such as Iraq and Afghanistan, people even use the internet to connect with the outside world. It is estimated that by 2020, two-thirds of the earth's population will be connected to the internet. There is no data mentioning how many percent of Indonesians have internet access. But with the information that most Indonesians have mobile phones, it is very likely that more than half of Indonesia's population has internet access.
In the digital era as mentioned above, then the information that contributes to shaping the character of society becomes unlimited. In the digital era, friendship is also very open, one can be friends with other people who only meet in cyberspace. Even such friendships can continue to be cooperation. Someone can work with colleagues who only meet in cyberspace. Many students do a research or other activities with colleagues through cyberspace. Trilling & Fadel (2009) even encourages and teaches how students can work internationally for joint research projects.
The consequences of friendship and organization as mentioned above, causes mutual influencing among them. In such social interaction, the more advanced societies will influence the less advanced. People who are less developed or less confident often imitate the behavior of people who are considered more advanced. We can witness such influence in our daily lives around us. The easiest example is the diet and dress patterns. It is so easy for us, especially children to imitate the style of eating and other types of food from other countries. They imitate the style of eating, dress style and social styles of other societies, because such behavior is applied by people who are considered more advanced.
In the digital age there is also emerging organizations developed through cyberspace. The members of the organization did not meet face-to-face, so all communication was done through cyberspace. People may become members or sympathizers of organizations located in other places or countries. As a member of an organization, a person will follow the vision mission of the organization. Thus it can be understood if there is someone who persistently runs the organization's policy in another country because it feels to be part of the organization.
The three impacts of the digital era mentioned above need attention, especially in preparing future leaders. Leaders who guide and manage people who are critical thinker, creative, diverse cultural backgrounds and have extensive national and even international networks, so they must have strong character, open-minded, able to communicate well, and able to learn quickly to solve problems.
Leaders in the digital age must have a very strong character, so they can maintain the identity of nation of Indonesia and not easily influenced by other cultures that do not fit with Indonesian culture. Leaders in the digital age must be open-minded, so they can understand the differences of thought and culture, because heterogenity will be one of the characteristics in the global era. They must be able to learn quickly, thus filtering incoming information, adopting the good and filtering out the bad. They must be flexible, so they can interact with people with diverse backgrounds, so as to maintain harmony. They never give up in solving problems encountered.
In preparing the leaders, we can not rely on talent or to let leaders learn from field experience. Education should deliberately prepare prospective leaders in the digital era. Education and training should be able to strengthen the character of leaders in various institutions, to be more competent in addressing problems in the 21st century.
Character Education Strategy
The question is how can education play a role in preparing leaders to have the noble character? What strategy should be taken so that the character education runs effectively to produce leaders with strong character, open minded, flexible, fast learner and tough in facing problems?.
Samani, Warsono, Rahayu and Supardjo (2015) propose four basic strategies in character education. First, to develop an agreement on the essential character values to be developed. There are many good character values. There are many sources and references that discuss character values associated with a particular topic. Especially in the information age, such a reference is very easy to obtain, so we have to choose which one suits the purpose of education designed.
Indonesia is a multi-ethnic, multi-racial, multi-religious, multi-cultural nation, so that we must be wise in choosing the values of characters believed to be appropriate for preparing future leaders in the digital age. One alternative is to explore character values based on local wisdom. When we find local wisdom which match to the leader's charateritics in the digital era, then it can be assured that the values can be easily implemented, because it comes from the treasures itself. Are the four values proposed above, that are strong character, open minded, flexible in associating with others, learning quickly and resilient to face challenges, fit with local wisdom? Of course it needs a further study, even though nationally the four values are universal.
Second, the selected values are integrated into subjects/courses, so that there is integration between the substance with the character values that want to be developed. It is believed that every scientific topic studied will eventually be implemented in life and at that time it will be related to the character's values.
When this strategy is implemented, every teacher/lecturer/instructor should understand what the character values to be developed are and then they should design how to relate with the topics to be discussed. At the same time, this strategy can encourage teachers/lecturers/instructors understand the essence of the topic discussed and how the wisdom can be applied in life. Indonesia has successfully implemented such a pattern when developing life skill education (Samani, 2003).
Third, character values are used as the objective of extra-curricular activities. Extra-curricular activities, such as sports, arts, scouts, and other activities are very effective in generating character values. Therefore what character values to be grown through these activities should be agreed and designed from the beginning. Moreover, the development of the character's values should be measured in assessing the success of the extra-curricular activities concerned.
For example, if an open-minded character becomes one of the objectives of extra-curricular activities, then a basketball club in a school/university should make it as one of measure of success. Thus, the achievement of the club is not only measured by the championship achieved, or the cohesiveness of the team in every game, but also the openness of club members to accept differences of opinion.
Fourth, the character values become school culture, so it becomes the behavior of both the leaders, teacher/lecturer/instructor and students. Learning from the experience of Islamic boarding school (pesantren) and other boarding school affiliated to certain institutions, this pattern is very effective in developing character values (Kemdikbud, 2009). Everyone has a tendency to adjust himself to the environment in where he is available. Especially if the person is a new person or a guest. Therefore, new students will try to adjust themselves to the culture in their new school/campus. If the values of characters that want to be developed have become school culture, automatically new students will adopt them.
In addition to these four strategies, role model and consistency become the key success of the character education implementation (Samani and Haryanto, 2011). School leaders/ universities, officials, and teachers/lecturers should be the role models of how to apply the values of character in everyday life. Students believe more in the behavior of leaders and teachers/lecturers than those lectured or written down. If using the theory of Lickona (1991), leaders and teachers/lecturers must prove that the character taught has become a moral action for themselves.
Consistency is also one key to the success of character education (Kemdikbud, 2009). Schools that successfully carry out character education have long been started and done consistently. They are lucky, because the values of the characters grown in accordance with the religious values held by the school, so that it is consistently applied in everyday life in school.
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