In this statement the OIEC (International Office of Catholic Education) and GPEN (Global Pedagogical Network – International Network of Protestant schools) share some of the benefits that Christian schools provide to education systems, communities, and societies. The statement is divided into four sections: the aims of Christian schools, their contributions, the right to education, and some of the challenges that Christian schools face.
Christian schools, and more generally faith-based schools, have played a leading role in educating children, youth, and even adults for centuries or even millennia in some countries. Today, the primary responsibility for providing education rests with the state, but this does not mean that faith-based schools have no role to play. Faith-based schools continue to play a key role in fulfilling the right to education and achieving the fourth Sustainable Development Goal. In particular, Christian schools and institutions of higher learning serve close to 100 million students globally2 and provide an important service to their communities and societies. Importantly, Christian and faith-based schools also enable parents to choose (within some reasonable limits) the type of education that should be provided to their children.
Christian schools operate in most countries of the world, but their presence is especially prominent in low income countries, including in sub-Saharan Africa. Historically, they played a leading role in providing education in underserved areas. They continue today to emphasize the need to reach the poor and vulnerable. They are closely embedded in their communities. However, the ability of Christian schools to fulfill their mission is being threatened, including right now by the implications of the COVID-19 crisis, especially in countries where the schools do not benefit from state support. In those countries, the current economic crisis is reducing the ability of parents to afford the education provided by Christian schools. Some organizations have argued that the state should be the sole provider of formal education. Others have argued that states should not be allowed to provide financial support to Christian and other faith-based schools. We do not agree with such views. Instead, we believe that education pluralism, whereby different types of schools coexist and benefit from state support, has important benefits for democratic societies, especially in the context of the challenges of the 21st century.
The present contribution by the International Office of Catholic Education (OIEC) and GPEN reformation (Global Pedagogical Network – Joining in Reformation, the international network of Protestant schools)3 was prepared for UNESCO’s Futures of Education Commission. We hope that this contribution will help in clarifying some of the benefits that Christian schools provide to education systems, communities, and societies. We also hope that this contribution will help frame constructive relationships between states and faith-based schools for the benefit of all. The note is divided into four sections on, respectively, the aims of Christian schools, their contributions, the right to education, and some of the challenges that Christian schools face.
To read the complete statement please follow this link CHRISTIAN SCHOOLS AND THE FUTURES OF EDUCATION: A Contribution to UNESCO’s Futures of Education Commission.
2 This estimate is based on data from the Catholic Church as well as GPENreformation and other Protestant networks. It includes both K12 education (pre-primary, primary, and secondary education) and tertiary education. On data issues related to measuring the contribution of Christian schools, see Wodon (2020a).
3 On the mission of Protestant schools globally, see Global Pedagogical Network – Joining in Reformation (2017).