Some S’pore Catholic educators went on a study trip to see how Catholic schools infuse spirituality into their institutions

A discussion between Singaporean team members and staff of St Benedict’s Centacare Kindergarten in Brisbane.A discussion between Singaporean team members and staff of St Benedict’s Centacare Kindergarten in Brisbane.

Some Catholic educators were in Brisbane recently to study how the Catholic school system there delivers Catholic education within the context of its relationship with Church leadership, parishes and other Church organisations.

During the June 5-10 trip, the 11 Catholic educators, together with a staff member from the Archdiocesan Commission for Catholic Schools (ACCS), visited preschools, primary schools and secondary colleges. These ranged from parish-run schools to those run by Religious orders.

The principals and senior staff shared with the visitors their school programme, Catholic ethos and vision for religious education as set out by Brisbane archdiocese.

The Singapore participants, most of whom came from preschools, primary and secondary schools, said they witnessed inspiring practices that created an atmosphere of reverence. For example, in one parish-based primary school, a daily five-minute school-wide silence was carried out during which sacred music was played to give the children and staff time for personal reflection.
The assistant principal at St Finbarr’s Primary school plays the guitar while a student leads prayer.The assistant principal at St Finbarr’s Primary school plays the guitar while a student leads prayer.

The Catholic spirituality that permeates the schools also appeared to inspire students’ participation in outreach programs. For example, Marist College in Ashgrove has a programme called MATES, which stands for “Marists are taking everybody seriously”.

In this programme, students commit to projects such as interacting with people with disabilities and hosting homeless people to a barbecue.

The Singapore visitors also noted how school principals there make staff welfare a priority and create a culture of care. In St Eugene’s School in Burpengary, for example, lit candles were laid along the school grounds to mourn a teacher who had just passed away.

Other aspects of the Catholic schools there, which participants observed, were a supportive and open culture that embraced the developmental needs of every student, from the gifted to those with special needs. There is also a strong avenue for parental involvement and commitment through the Parents & Friends Association where parents can work in partnership with their children’s schools.

Participants also took part in a half-day programme at the Brisbane Catholic Education headquarters at Dutton Park. This session was conducted by various specialists and teams, each focusing on areas such as numeracy, literacy, religious education and pedagogy, Catholic perspectives in the curriculum, and gifted and talented education.

The Singapore participants said they learnt much from their visit.

“I am very impressed by the quality of the holistic Catholic education provided by each of the Catholic schools,” said Mrs Catherine Seah, principal of CHIJ Our Lady of Good Counsel.

“I believe that indeed character education should be valued beyond grades alone. We have much to learn from the schools we visited, that every child could be groomed to be gracious and loving”.

Reports from the participants will be collated and recommendations made to help the Singapore Church and ACCS deliver high-quality Catholic education in the Catholic schools here.

Since 2011, the Brisbane Catholic Education office (BCE) has engaged with Catholic schools from Singapore in a range of professional learning opportunities.

The ACCS website is at http://accs.sg/ 

By Merilyn Dasson

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