“Today our prime educational objective must be to form men and women for others; men and women who will live not for themselves but for God and his Christ” (Arrupe, Men for Others, Valencia, 1973). This year, 2023, is the 50th year of Arrupe’ s this famous exhortation that changed the perspectives and course of Jesuit Education. In the context of this, it is apt that we take a renewed look at the key element of Jesuit Education, that is Human Excellence.
Perhaps we have a duty to ask ourselves as Jesuit educators; how to educate and train in a new way for future? What kind of Human Excellence do we, as Jesuit educators, need to seek and achieve in today´s world? (Ref. GIobal Identifiers of Jesuit Schools #9).
From the beginning of Jesuit Education, Human Excellence was its fundamental aim. Therefore, from the start, Jesuit education was accepted and much sought after by many in Europe. “The Jesuit schools, whose pedagogical principles comprised a large segment of European scholastic institutions. Their growth between 1548 and 1773 was phenomenal. FromA Living 1548, when the first Jesuit school was founded at Messina in Sicily, to 1556, when Ignatius of Loyola, the Jesuit founder and general, died, thirty-three schools had been opened and six more were ready to open”. (1)
“The success of Jesuit education is proved by its graduates. It produced, first, a long list of wise and learned Jesuit preachers, writers, philosophers, and scientists. Yet if it had bred nothing but Jesuits, it would be less important. Its value is that it proved the worth of its principles by developing a large number of widely different men of vast talent: Corneille the tragedian, Descartes the philosopher and mathematician, Bossuet and Bourdaloue the orators, Moliere the comedian, d’Urfè the romantic novelist, Montesquieu the political philosopher, Voltaire the philosopher and critic, who although he is regarded by the Jesuits as a bad pupil is still not an unworthy representative of their ability to train gifted minds”(2). This initial growth and spread of Jesuit education and the quality of their students affirms the principle aim of human excellence in Jesuit education was relevant to the context.
In other words, “the aim of this humanistic education, therefore, was to produce the well-rounded and socially aware person, a person “out there,” engaged in the affairs of the community, not a private practitioner sequestered in the cloisters known as libraries, classrooms, laboratories, or even surgeries, not somebody intent on using his (or, eventually, her) professional education exclusively for climbing the corporate ladder or even for advancing his or her profession. In this education the ethical elements, was crucial”(3)
Over the last 450 years of Jesuit education, it has evolved a lot through various sources like the pedagogy of the Spiritual Exercises, Ignatian writings, documents of the General Congregations, decrees from Fr. Generals, ICAJE, global Colloquiums, and Our Living Traditions. The Ratio Studiorum was a document of broad intent and universal application, consisting of the processes of spiritual exercises, the humanistic and philosophical tenets of the time. It’s rules applied to all Jesuit institutions of the time. The expectation of the Society was that its teaching members would faithfully follow the rules prescribed by the document and carry on instruction by its established methods. “The Ratio was in good part a manual for teachers, who were expected to follow carefully the rules of their respective classes” (4)
All these have done a great deal of evolving and affirming the great ideals of Jesuit education to the current context of the world. All these are manifested in global community of educators from the Jesuit Global Network of Schools called Educate Magis.
The school managed by the Jesuits aims to train young people into excellent human beings in the academic field that encourages them to progress in the fields of science and technology, sports and arts, health and social sciences, spirituality, and psychology. Jesuit schools where students’ generosity of heart is tried and tested, and encouraged them to excel in all the areas, according to one’s unique talent and giftedness. The criteria to assess their personal growth is, how much they have grown in competence, conscience, compassion, and commitment, as our Former General Kolvenbach articulated, and the SIPEI conference in Barcelona in 2014 reinterpreted and articulated them according to our context.
Conferring to Jesedu-Rio 2017 Conference, Jesuit schools will “work together and accomplish a new level of agency for our schools. This process will make our schools stronger locally and globally and more relevant to the societies we serve. Therefore, the delegates of the regions and the provinces will work for achieving the following goals to make our schools for Human Excellence;
“The delegates commit – during their school visits and reviews – to assessing and developing the level of regional and global networking cooperation that exists” (#10).
“The delegates commit to including in new faculty and staff training programs an understanding that faculty and staff are joining a global network and that they have a role to play in animating it” (#11).
“The delegates further commit to working with the schools´ leadership to oblige all faculty and staff be formed in global citizenship so that they can help students understand their future as global citizens” (#12).
“The delegates commit to making Educate Magis an integral tool and resource in the schools to help animate their global dimension” (#13)”. (5)
A study of The Characteristics of Jesuit Education highlights the importance of human excellence in a big way, to the fullest possible development of all human qualities. “It is a call to critical thinking and disciplined studies, a call to develop the whole person, head and heart, intellect, and feelings. “God is especially revealed in the mystery of the human person, “created in the image and likeness of God”; Jesuit education, therefore, probes the meaning of human life and is concerned with the total formation of each student as an individual personally loved by God. The objective of Jesuit education is to assist in the fullest possible development of all the God-given talents of each individual person as a member of the human community”. (6)
The Characteristics of Jesuit Education was published in the year 1986, on the occasion the 400th anniversary of Ratio Studiorum by then General of the Society, Kolvenbach. It articulates the vision and the sense of purpose of Jesuit Education.
In Jesuit education, the criterion of excellence is applied to all areas of school life. School policies are such that they create an ambience or climate which will promote excellence. The pursuit of academic excellence is appropriate in a Jesuit school, but only within the larger context of human excellence. (7)
The Characteristics of Jesuit Education articulates human excellence in Jesuit Education. Accordingly, the summary of the characteristics of Jesuit Education are the following.
- Seeks the fullest possible development of each person.
- Fosters a religious consciousness that permeates the entire program of education.
- Focuses on preparation for life.
- Promotes dialogue between faith and culture.
- Centres on the person rather than on the material.
- Emphasizes active involvement on the part of the learner.
- Promotes a life-long openness to growth.
- Is rooted in value formation and the ability to form sound evaluative procedures.
- Encourages a realistic knowledge, acceptance, and love of the self.
- Provides a realistic understanding of the world.
- Proposes Christ as the model for human living.
- Provides an atmosphere of pastoral concern.
- Celebrates faith in personal and community prayer, worship, and service.
- Aims at forming a commitment to an active life.
- Proclaims a faith that seeks justice.
- Seeks to form men and women for others.
- Manifests a preferential option for the poor.
- Serves as an apostolic instrument in the mission of the Church.
- Seeks to build active commitment to the work of the Church.
- Pursues academic excellence.
- Operates in such a way as to give witness to excellence.
- Stresses Jesuit-lay collaboration.
- Relies on and seeks to strengthen a genuine spirit of community among all constituents of the school.
- Is structured in ways that promote the sense of community.
- Is willing to adapt approaches to better meet its purposes.
- Exists as a system of schools sharing a common vision and common goals.
- Is committed to the ongoing process of professional enrichment and formation.
These 27 points are very important for Jesuit schools, educators, students, school leaders, and parents. As we live in a very diverse and complex world, we can re-invent our legacy and tradition to make us relevant to our context. We are living in a globalised world, where communication is faster, and boarders of nations are far more open to people. There is a ‘mini-world’ even in small cities today. Inter-cultural interaction is the order of the day. However, one cannot overlook the strife and tensions, violence and wars, selfishness and exploitation, Pandemic, and poverty.
In this context Jesuits can contribute to the present world, by bringing the global experience under Jesuit Global Network of Schools (JGNS). We can share our experiences, novelties, and our good practices through our Global Community of Educators through Educate Magis.
When in 1973 “Father General Pedro Arrupe pronounced that turning out graduates who would be, in his expression, “men and women for others,” I am sure he realized how profoundly his words resonated with the Jesuit tradition of Christian spirituality, but I very much doubt he realized how it resonated with the broader humanistic tradition. The moral imperative has been at the heart of the humanistic tradition from the very beginning. It correlates well with the mission of the Society of Jesus”. (8)
Keeping this great tradition in mind we need to reinvent and revitalise our education. Jesuit were and are to be innovators, trend setters and change makers. If we follow the educational principles and legacy of the past 450 years and invent our own to suit the modern context, we can adhere to the following areas seriously.
- Cura personalis. Cura personalis is care of everyone. Today we talk about Multiple Intelligence based education, where education is focused on child rather than subject. Same thing is said by St. Ignatius and Jesuit Education, as of Jesuit Formation for schools.
- Holistic Education: In our education a particular care must be given to the development of the imaginative, the affective, and the creative dimensions of each student in all courses of study.
- Conscience: Jesuit schools aim to train young people into excellent human beings with affectivity. In other words students are morally upright.
- Competence: Jesuit education develops traditional skills in speaking and writing and also with modern means of communication.
- Compassion: We consider ‘being human’ is more important for human beings.
- Commitment: The Jesuit school encourages and assists each student to respond to his or her own personal call from God, a vocation of service in personal and professional life.
- Justice oriented: Jesuit students are conscious of faith that does justice.
- Technology and communication: Jesuit students must be creative, innovative and good at communication.
- Guides and Mentors: The quality of the relationship between the guide of the Spiritual Exercises and the person making them is the model for the relationship between teacher and student. Teachers are more than academic guides. They are involved in the lives of the students, taking a personal interest in the intellectual, affective, moral, and spiritual development of every student, helping each one to develop a sense of self-worth and to become a responsible individual within the community.
- Ignatian Vision: Aware of and are open to the Ignatian vision as this is applied to education.
- Role-models: Teachers try to live in a way that offers an example to the students.
- Change Makers: Teachers try to become more conscious of the faith that does justice, so that they can provide students with the intellectual, moral and spiritual formation that will enable them to make a commitment to service, that will make them ‘agents of change’.
- Professional Leaders: Jesuit educators are expected to be professional educators, competent and committed in their service to their students.
- Makers of Men and Women for others: Teachers have acquired the ideals of Jesuit Education and adhere to it.
- Ignatian world view: As far as possible, parents understand, value and accept the Ignatian world view that characterizes the Jesuit school.
- Cooperation: They part of the educational endeavours with their support and contributions
- Advisory Councils: Parents are to be part of the Advisory Councils to give their best expertise to the schools.
- Qualified Leaders: Who can teach and give witness to the teachings of Christ.
- Inspiring Persons: A Jesuit school leader is a very inspiring person in the development of a common vision and in preserving unity within the educational community.
- Jesuit Principles and Pedagogy: The head of the school or his deputy remains ultimately responsible for the distinctively Jesuit nature of this education.
- Ignatian Vision: A leader must monitor to make sure that the Ignatian Vision is applied in education.
- Follows the School Identifiers: He guides the entire schools to follow the Ten School Identifiers prescribed by Our Living Tradition.
- Educate Magis: Capable of networking and communicating through our Global Online Community of educators.
We are grateful to everyone involved in Jesuit Education. Thousands of men and women are involved in educating for human excellence. They are giving dedicated service as teachers, administrators, mentors, and guides. They are ready for renew themselves and move forward. It is now possible for them to go for a depth reflection in this Golden Jubilee Year of “Men and Women for Others”. What we need is to synthesize the efforts of the Society, and our schools spread across the world. Notwithstanding of the challenges, parents still look for better education for their children. Education is given high priority by the Church, civil society, and governments too. Therefore, it is imperative for the Society and our institutions to respond to the vital need in today’s world. Remember, education remains as a preferential apostolate of the Society of Jesus, then, now and in the future.
1. THE JESUIT RATIO STUDIORUM OF 1599, by Allan P. Farrell, S.J., p. iii, University of Detroit CONFERENCE OF MAJOR SUPERIORS OF JESUITS 1717 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W. Washington, D. C. 20036, 1970.
2. Ibid., p.5 (v)
3. Jesuit Schools of Humanities: Yesterday and Today, John O’Malley SJ, p 15
4. Action Statement, JeseduRio 2017
5. Characteristics of Jesuit Education, Abridged version, Jesuit Institute. no. 25
6. Ibid. p.
7. The Jesuit code of liberal education: Development and scope of the Ratio Studiorum. Farrell, Allan Peter. (1938) Milwaukee,WI: Bruce Publishing Company. P.132
8. Jesuit Schools of Humanities: Yesterday and Today, John O’Malley SJ, p. 29