Join PAULINE TENG, an educator with close to two decades of experience in Catholic education, as she sets out her personal insights and key takeaways from ArchComms’ latest talk show.
In anticipation of the release of the 2020 Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) results on Nov 25, the Archbishop’s Communications Office (ArchComms), in collaboration with the Archdiocesan Commission for Catholic Schools (ACCS), organised a one-hour talk show entitled “Let’s Talk about Choosing Schools” on Nov 14.
The show, facilitated by Ms Valerie Siew of ArchComms, saw two principals, Mr Mark Minjoot of St Patrick’s School and Mrs Woo Soo Min of Maris Stella High, and Ms Vivienne Lim, a parent of four children aged six to 20, discuss the important factors to consider when choosing schools. It was streamed live on ArchComms’ Facebook and YouTube channels, reaching 4,500 viewers, and continues to be accessible on https://youtu.be/aZdg-ogHjEM.
Factors when choosing schools
All three panellists were unanimous in their view that the chosen school should be a good match for the child. Mr Minjoot urged parents to find out about the mission, vision and ethos of the school. Do the school programmes excite the child? Does the school ethos excite the parent?
In choosing a secondary school, parents were encouraged to have a heart-to-heart talk with their teenagers and to give them a say in the decision-making. Mrs Woo underscored the importance of this, having witnessed how motivated such students were, in involving themselves in school life and striving to do their best, only because they had wanted so badly to be enrolled in that school.
To Ms Lim, a Catholic education at primary level is important. It is imperative for children to “hear and articulate God early in their lives”, she said. A Catholic education at secondary level is just as critical as both the school and home are environments for the youth to encounter God and to fall in love with Christ.
In the final analysis, the factors parents consider when choosing schools are very much dependent on the moral and religious convictions of parents.
The mission of Catholic parents
The Holy See’s Teaching on Catholic Schools clearly states that parents are the first educators of their children. It states that “Parents have the original, primary, and inalienable rights to educate their offspring in conformity with the family’s moral and religious convictions.”
Catholic parents must be convinced that education should be holistic i.e. “imbued with a Catholic world view and “intentionally directed to the growth of the whole person”. They must see education beyond the narrow confines of examination results and attainment of academic qualifications, and consider schools beyond the “best” or most “popular” schools, or secondary schools with high cut-off points.
Good academic grades only prepare the child for higher education. It is the application of knowledge and skills in the service of humanity that is what each child is called to in life. God has gifted each child with unique talents and strengths – Catholic parents have a responsibility to work with the school to develop these talents into skill sets that can enable them to live their God-given vocations in adult life.
For the Catholic parents who recognise this and choose to enrol their children in a Catholic school, it is important that they see the school as an extension of the home. Beyond ensuring that their child attains good academic grades, they have a responsibility to align the values of the home with the values of their child’s school.
On mission for the common good
Catholic schools are relevant in this day and age to the extent that they are true to their mission of educating the child to be of service to the common good.
Ms Lim, who is also the Chairperson, Board of Management of CHIJ Schools, recounted how the first Infant Jesus (IJ) school was founded in 1854. Besides and beside the school, the IJ sisters also founded an orphanage. “From its very inception, Catholic education and service to the community go hand-in-hand and side-by-side. The IJ sisters had the girls help out at the orphanage during recess and after school.”
More than just striving for academic excellence, these schools understand that their mission is to nurture their students “to their fullest potential, to be the unique individuals that God has created them to be” (Archbishop William Goh’s Prayer for Catholic Schools).
Many of our Catholic schools work hard at forming their students to acquire knowledge and values, as well as use their gifts for the service of humanity. May they not labour in vain.