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By Sunny Jacob SJ
Dec 12th, 2016

The Annual Jesuit Educational Association (JEA) meeting was held at Dindigul from 19th to 23rd November 2016. All the Province Coordinators of Education (PCEs) of India and Nepal attended.

There were several sessions during these days, where the key themes discussed were:

  • Discernment, innovation and change
  • Animation and administration
  • Collaboration and global networking

    1. Discernment, innovation and change

The discernment in Jesuit education must keep in mind the mission of the Society and continuously search and perceive if we are moving in the right direction. We shall focus on radical changes as opposed to cosmetic changes. In “creative fidelity” education needs to be tailored to the needs of the environment (Fr William Keith Abranches, SJ).

Discernment also means “being attentive, reflective and loving. Discernment should be a habit. We should be creative and imaginative in our missions. In a discerning Jesuit school, students learn differently” (Fr Joe Arun, SJ).

Innovation and the challenges of Jesuit education were discussed in the context of the richness of Indian culture and tradition. Dr. Victor Anthuvan emphasised the diminishing standard of today and called on the Jesuits to contribute in a creative and innovative way to what is being done today.

Dr. Kishore spoke of the needs of today’s students, whose access level is very high. Today education cannot be limited to books and notes. Innovations must focus on:

  • Accountability; schools should be accountable
  • Affordability
  • Curriculum; parents do not know what curriculum their child should study
  • Technology to be used in a creative way
  • Evaluation
  • Value orientated education

Reading a book is not innovation, but how that book has affected the child is an innovation. The purpose of school is different. Schools are not local provider, but global provider. Schools are the blue print of the society. Planning / designing the curriculum with innovation in mind is essential.

2. Animation and administration

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Fr. Sebastian Raj, SJ the Provincial of Madurai used the spiritual image of the responding to the call of the King in secondary education. He highlighted the Jesuit community ownership and Jesuit network of schools, which form part of the mission of the wider Society. Every Jesuit should realize that he belongs to an organization.

Fr. Joe Arun, SJ expressed that every Jesuit must bear his part of the burden of his school. There must be a sense of justice and depth of imagination, which is also a “dissenting imagination”.

The role of the animator is to formulate policies, to ensure the functioning of the Standard Operating Procedure (job description, sanction, etc.); performance appraisal; provide and use tools of evaluation; and look after the process of accreditation.

3. Collaboration and global networking

Collaboration and global networking was the theme of the online (virtual) presentation by Educate Magis. The Global Citizenship project was highlighted as a great opportunity for collaboration as a global network. The Educate Magis global community is eager for networking and collaboration on projects and educational innovation. 

  • Collaborators are “apostolic partners”. Every act of collaboration demands sharing of responsibility and power with the partner. Networking within Jesuit schools is very much encouraged. There should be depth of thought and imagination (Fr. Joe Arun, SJ).
  • Collaboration is essential in today’s context; mission is not our mission, it is of God, and therefore inclusive.
  • We need to share our approach and way of proceeding with others and learn from the expertise of others.
  • Relieves the Jesuits for other ministries, frontiers
  • Active participation of others in the decision making process
  • We do not consider the others as mere employees
  • Networking as education strategy

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And some final thoughts from the meeting, summarized by Fr. Sunny Jacob, SJ, JEA Secretary

The physical presence of Jesuit in any of the mission is NOT absolutely essential, but Jesuit way of proceeding is essential in any of the mission. Every Jesuit school should give more importance to extra or co-curricular activities. We shouldn’t be result oriented, but focus on all-round development of the students. Do not focus only on the bright students for rank; all students are entrusted under our care. Academic qualification does not necessarily qualify anyone to be an administrator. Create an academic or learning atmosphere in the entire campus. There must be an ambiance (ethos).  Our institutions will have to be run professionally; with a system. Everyday every teacher should ask him/herself how many hearts of the students s/he has touched. Magic of a Jesuit is love for the students. Every Jesuit should have the humility to learn from others – approach, system, innovation. We should realize that we are no more leaders of education.