By Dr. Alvin Chan Kok Chuen
The greatest discovery of my generation (about 1900)
is that human beings can alter their lives by altering their
attitudes of mind.
'Sow a thought, reap an action.
Sow an action, reap a habit.
Sow a habit, reap a character.
Sow a character, reap a destiny.'
Attitudes-Based Learning (or ABL, for short) is a
program initiated in the year 2000 to inculcate positive attitudes
and characters in children and teens in Singapore.
During that period of time, there were many
incidents around the world that deserved our utmost attention. The
rise of terrorism around the world was televised around the world
and the increasing number of children and teens suffering due to
drugs, physical and sexual abuse was alarming. The increase in
school-related violence and incidents were reported widely, from
America to Japan. Not to mention, several incidents involving teens
going on a school killing spree in America.
One of the most bizarre incidents involved a
seven-year-old boy who pulled out a gun and shot dead a girl in
class (in front of his Grade 1 teacher and classmates near Flint,
Michigan). Associated Press, Mar 1, 2000
With so much violence and terror in our world
involving children (directly or indirectly), there was a pressing
need to encourage more character building education in our
societies, to bring forth positive attitudes and moral values for
Hence, the development of the program,
Attitudes-Based Learning (ABL) was given birth in Singapore to play
a positive role in remedying the ills of our society.
In its infancy, ABL was perceived as a credible
cornerstone to foster a conscious character building education in
Singapore schools. But unfortunately, there was not much done to
push the idea forward due to lack of interest and financial backing
in year 2000. Though for a brief period, ABL made its print debut in
the first Asia's children's creative thinking magazine, ONE, in
Singapore and Malaysia through stories that emphasized positive
attitudes like kindness, determination and how one can make a
difference in people's lives.
It was only until the year 2003 that ABL was
resuscitated into its full glory and intentions. With encouragement
and involvement of like-minded individuals who were fervent to build
a mentally and emotionally stronger Singapore, ABL was re-engineered
to serve as a holistic attitudes- transformation education program
for all (though emphasis is still on young children and teens).
In the year 2003, the new and improved
Attitudes-Based Learning program is not just another character
building program. ABL was further dissected and analyzed by a small
team of researchers. With added refinements to the teaching
philosophy and methodology, ABL program became more adaptive and
holistic. This has greatly increased the effectiveness of achieving
the mission and the desired outcomes of the ABL program.
It was also realized that ABL should cater for pre-schoolers,
as there was insufficient providers of character building education
programs for this particular age group in Singapore and Asia. With
ABL being a program that infuses the dimension of self-reflection to
build better self-esteem and awareness, we were confident that
through interesting and thought-provoking activities (based on
Harvard's Professor Howard Gardner's Multiple Intelligences
concept), ABL would be immensely successful in encouraging positive
attitudes amongst our pre-schoolers.
So, how is ABL unique from other character building
education programs available?
ABL adopts a 7-steps framework, which ensure that
each child is correctly exposed, explained and experienced to the
ABL emphasis is on self-discovery rather than
ABL uses 4 easy-to-remember animal characters to
help each child relate a specially devised set of values and
The process of nurturing positive attitudes in your
students using Attitudes-Based Learning program is not complex. They
are simple but effective steps to ensure that your students will
slowly but steadily transform the way they behave and feel about
themselves. More importantly, family and friends will notice the
difference in them in the most positive manner if done right.
The 7-Steps of the Attitudes-Based Learning Process
developed by Dr. Alvin Chan
There is a sequence of 7-steps that you need to
follow in order for ABL to be effective in achieving your desired
1. EXPLANATION AND UNDERSTANDING
Explain the attitude to be taught to your charges
Increase their understanding by giving a few
examples about the attitude. Better still, tell a story with the
related attitude to be taught and discuss with them
Ask them whether they have experiences about
the attitude taught to check on their understanding.
2. SHARING EXPERIENCES
Get them to share their experiences about the
attitude and the related positive behavior
3. SITUATIONS and REFLECTIONS
Give them a few situations whereby such attitude
can be applied in their lives
Ask them what they will do in this variety of
Get them to reflect upon their actions-are they
appropriate or not?
Share your thoughts with them about their
Tell them what you think is the more appropriate
action for each situation
Ask them to reflect on what you have told
them-do they agree with you?
Create an environment for them to role-play the
few situations that are being discussed.
Ask them to point out whether the ‘actors'
have acted in an appropriate manner.
5. ACTIVITY (TO REMIND AND REINFORCE THE LEARNING)
Give them an activity (could be listening to a
story, drawing or singing a song) to reinforce what they have learnt
about the attitude. This is to help them remember better the
attitude learnt in class.
Encourage them to ‘practice' what they have
learnt in class by giving specific situations and appropriate
actions they can do in their home, with their family and friends.
Get them to be accountable for practicing what
they have learnt by providing them a checklist of positive actions
(usually using pictures to show) for them to remind themselves (or
even for their parents to sign the checklist)
After a few days, ask them whether they have
practiced the positive actions based on the checklist that were
given in class.
Teacher must periodically keep track that
students continue to practice the positive actions taught to ensure
internalization of attitudes.
The checklist also acts as a measurement to
evaluate the effectiveness of the learning process.
Dr. Alvin Chan is a Senior Research Consultant at First
Quatermain, and also acts as an Advisor for several education
You can contact Dr. Chan at