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What’s the appeal of faith schools?

Discussion in 'Australia - Staffroom' started by TES_Rosaline, Aug 11, 2017.

  1. TES_Rosaline

    TES_Rosaline Administrator Staff Member

    Why are faith schools so popular in Australia? More than 20 percent of children attend Catholic schools, according to last year's figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics: http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/mf/4221.0.

    Do you work in a Catholic school? What do you like about working in a faith school? Would you recommend working in a faith school to other teachers?

    What tips would you give to other teachers thinking about working in a Catholic school?
  2. lyptian

    lyptian New commenter

    I have worked in Catholic schools for over 5 years and have also sent my son to both a Catholic primary and high school. The most prevalent difference I notice as an educator and a parent is the focus on the holistic education of a child. The pastoral care programs embed the charism of the school and teach students to have an awareness of the world around them and their responsibility to be global citizens.

    Of course, academics are important however faith based schools educate students about their privileged position and the need to give back to the community. Through social outreach programs, students develop empathy for others which is an attribute the classroom can’t teach. By giving up their time and using their talents to help those less fortunate, young people are given the opportunity to see the world through difference lenses. I have found that this gives students an appreciation for the privileged position they are in and in turn motivates them to make the most of the opportunity their education allows.

    Social outreach programs can only go ahead if there are teachers willing to give up their time to supervise the activities. My advice to educators is to embrace the charism of the school and get involved in these programs. This allows you to form relationships with the students outside the classroom in the same way a sporting or debating coach can.

    As a religion teacher, I am in the unique position to teach and discuss world events from a religious point of view. To embed gospel values such as forgiveness, tolerance, acceptance of outcasts and respect is what our world is in desperate need of. I firmly believe that change comes through education and our students are the future. Being able to teach students about other religious allows them to be open-minded, critical thinkers and to make educated decisions without ignorance.
  3. kaylawilson4

    kaylawilson4 New commenter Tes Australia careers peer advisor

    @lyptian Thanks so much for adding to the discussion. I can agree with you that the social outreach programs in faith-based schools can be very rewarding for students and staff, and give teachers opportunities to get to know their students outside the classroom.

    I also taught religious education and found this a great way to encourage students to have empathy and acceptance for those in society who may have a different experience or background to them. I found that a lot of what I was encouraging in my classroom wasn't about adherence to a particular faith, but being able to give students the skills and knowledge to understand the perspectives of others. A valuable life skill!
  4. Christopher  Curtis

    Christopher Curtis Occasional commenter


    I found that an interesting read. I taught only in government schools but am fully supportive of the non-government sector. I saw research years ago, which I cannot place my fingers on now, that showed the seriousness with which Catholic schools took their wider mission to form the whole person in the community and the positive effects this had in their school communities. Good government schools do the same thing, though their basis for doing so is different.

    I would like to explain some particular features of Australian education for the foreign reader. In England, most faith schools are fully funded by the government and may not charge fees. Public funding of faith schools is common throughout Europe too. In Australia, funding for faith schools was cut off in the nineteenth century, in 1872 in Victoria, for example. It took until 1967 to get some back when the DLP forced the then Liberal premier of the state, Henry Bolte, to provide $10 for each primary school student and $20 for each secondary school student in a non-government school. That’s per year, not per week, by the way. Since then, both state and federal government funding has grown substantially but has not reached 100 per cent, and such schools therefore have to charge fees. This affects who can afford to enrol in them.

    Catholic schools and other low-fee non-government schools have just suffered the biggest attack in my lifetime as the federal government has changed the rules to cut their funding by several billion dollars and thus force them to put their fees up. It is probably outside the topic to go into details, but this will be a big issue in the next federal election and the results will affect how many students can receive the sort of education that you so enthusiastically support.
  5. kaylawilson4

    kaylawilson4 New commenter Tes Australia careers peer advisor

    Hi Christopher,

    I have had many of the same thoughts as yourself with all the public discussion in Australia around Gonski 2.0 funding. Particularly the conversation up here in Queensland where some schools will have significant difference to how they are funded. I also remembered back to when I was in my teaching degree and learnt about the Goulburn School Strike.

    I know that its a topic that has garnered a lot of media attention, but Australia's education spending is much lower than the OECD average - Australia’s per student spending as a percentage of per capita GDP is 18% for primary compared to the OECD average of 22%, and 23% for secondary compared to the OECD average of 25%. So, I wonder whether there is a case for what has been presented by schools facing a funding cut - that instead of cutting funds to the most privileged schools, raise the funding for others to close the gap for less advantaged schools.
  6. Christopher  Curtis

    Christopher Curtis Occasional commenter

    Hi, Kayla.

    I’ve been involved in politics for a very long time and am astounded at how the media has misreported school funding issues for years. The funding model is not the “needs-based”, “sector-blind” one journalists keep telling us it is. It is particularly unfair for low-fee, mostly Catholic schools, and will force them to out their fees up and thus drive the poorer children out of them into the local government school. It’s almost as if the model has been deliberately designed to push poor families into government schools and well-off families into non-government schools.

    I agree we need to increase spending overall and direct the increase to the most needy students.

    Would you please tell me where your GDP figures come from as the OECD used to publish them and then stopped so I have been searching for that information for years unsuccessfully. Thank you.
  7. kaylawilson4

    kaylawilson4 New commenter Tes Australia careers peer advisor

  8. Christopher  Curtis

    Christopher Curtis Occasional commenter

    Thanks, Kayla.

    I’ve got the information via the link you provided, though why the OECD doesn’t just provide the figures for all countries in its Education at a Glance directly as it once did is beyond me. It is very important as it shows that expenditure per student has to be looked at relative to each country’s overall living standards as that shows the relative importance each country places on education.

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