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The first official document on Jesuit Education was the Ratio Studiorum (RS) published in 1599 under Fr. General Acquaviva. This document guided Jesuit Education until the suppression of the Society in 1773. After the restoration of the Society in 1814 there was a feeling that a new version of the RS was needed; however, it proved to be a difficult and ultimately an impossible task since the recent created national states wanted to control their school systems and to dictate their curricula and their pedagogy. In 1906, the 25th General Congregation decreed that “in these times of ours, characterized by such variety and instability in legislation concerning schools and the subject matter taught there, this should not be attempted.” (D.12, #1). From this point on it was recommended that the guidelines and decisions about curricula and pedagogy should come from the Provincials so that they could respond to the specific circumstances of their own countries.

However, later in the century there was a growing feeling that it was necessary to have some common framework that could guarantee unity in diversity. Fr. General Pedro Arrupe responded to this need with the creation of ICAJE (International Commission on the Apostolate of Jesuit Education) and entrusted to this Commission the creation of a new document that would express the identity and main features of Jesuit Education. In 1986 ICAJE offered Fr. General Kolvenbach the result of their work which was communicated to the whole Society as The Characteristics of Jesuit Education (Characteristics). This document was the second official document on education in the history of the Jesuits and the first of the contemporary documents that continue to guide us today.

Characteristics is organized into 9 sections and presents 28 characteristics of any school that wishes to identify itself as a Jesuit school. The sections are clearly linked to the spiritual experience of Saint Ignatius of Loyola to show that Jesuit Education is ultimately rooted in Ignatian Spirituality. Many of the characteristics are also found in the RS but they are presented in a more contemporary language and context. However, some of them do present a new emphasis or novelty. For instance, characteristic # 8: Life-long openness to growth, #16 Serves the faith that does justice, #18: Manifest a particular concern for the poor and #23: Stresses Lay-Jesuit collaboration. You can learn more about this document here.

Characteristics was well received by the schools. It was a document that guaranteed unity and respected the diversity of the local contexts and school systems in which our schools operated. However, a new need emerged: The translation of this document into a pedagogy for the classroom. Consequently, ICAJE were put to work again and in 1993 published Ignatian Pedagogy: A Practical Approach (commonly known as the IPP (Ignatian Pedagogical Paradigm) to help Ignatian practitioners to live the characteristics through their pedagogical practice. The document presents the pedagogical style derived from Ignatian Spirituality through five dimensions that should always be present in any learning process: context, experience, reflection, action, and evaluation. These dimensions are not consecutive steps to be followed but rather elements that must accompany the learning process and that can be combined with many different pedagogical methods and methodologies. The IPP helps teachers to become Ignatian educators that promote the values and goals of Jesuit Education in their daily routines. You can read the document, understand each of the dimensions and get some inspiring ideas for using them here.

More recently, in 2019, Fr. General Arturo Sosa announced a new document also prepared by ICAJE: Jesuit Schools: A Living Tradition in the 21st Century (A Living Tradition). This document continues the process of discernment of Characteristics and the IPP and together these documents form the contemporary framework of Jesuit Education. A Living Tradition emphasizes the changes that are happening in the world and offers 10 global identifiers of a Jesuit School today, that is, what makes a Jesuit school Jesuit today; 10 features that invite schools to an ongoing exercise of discernment so that our education can prepare students for the present and the future. As Fr. General Sosa expresses in his letter presenting the document: “The best tribute that we can offer to our long tradition in education is to explore new models, creative and imaginative ways to offer our spiritual vision and education experience to our students and families.” Some of the global identifiers are a clear continuation of our tradition and others respond to the urgent needs and challenges of our time: #2: Creating a safe and healthy environment for all; #3: Educating for Global Citizenship; #4 Caring for all Creation; #7 Educating for interculturality and #8: Being a global network at the service of the mission. You can find the document and inspiration to continue our ongoing process of discernment to make Jesuit Education a powerful tool for a better future for all here. As Ignatian educators we are living through very exciting times in the history of Jesuit Education!