Convergence on Policy Goals: Character Education in East Asia and England

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The goal of character building in east Asian countries is often presented as a shared cultural construct and positioned within an east-west dichotomy. However, it is not at all clear that east Asian forms of character education are identifiable and distinct or that they always transcend national and cultural values. Jeynes (2008) has cautioned us to remember that cultural differences limit the extent to which we can learn lessons from another country, but how authoritative is this caution' The English Secretary of State for Education, Nicky Morgan, announced in December 2014 that she intended to secure England's place as a global leader by expanding the nation's provision and evidence base for character education. In this context, this article asks whether England shares any commonalities in the so-called east-west dichotomy on character education-are they mutually exclusive or are they compatible. Is there a west-individual view and an east - collective view' Is the character education movement in east Asia more of an ideological and political movement' As the British government looks for policy solutions to new and challenging problems, including character education, what answers can it find from abroad' What can it learn, borrow or pinch from these east Asian countries and is there a convergence on policy goals for character education within and across these countries' The paper is based on the work (translated) of prominent east Asian academics and builds on the author's personal interface with officials in the Ministry of Education in Japan and Singapore as well as meetings and conferences with numerous academics in universities across east Asian countries to address these questions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)59-71
JournalJournal of International and Comparative Education
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 14 Nov 2016


  • character
  • international comparisons
  • values
  • morals and schooling


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