Taking a religious stance

Does religion make a difference to the quality of education: Some heads of school give their views:

Mary Williams

Roedean School
Affiliation: Anglican
I do not believe it is either or [about which is more beneficial]. You’re entitled to choice and to say that as a school this is what you stand for — as long as you do not use a faith-based veneer to practise any discrimination. By the same token, parents who choose to send their children to faith-based schools have to understand that they get the package; you can’t just take the good science teacher, you also have to accept the Anglican ethos, for instance. For many children, it’s a family decision to go to a faith-based school. Many parents do it to reinforce what is happening at home already. Either way, I believe it is healthy that there is a range of faith-based and secular schools to choose from.


Deanne King

St Mary’s School Waverley
Affiliation: Anglican
Having taught in both milieus, I can tell you that it is easier to work within an environment where the values are set already. Even with children of different faiths, having a steady value base which is predetermined allows correct behaviours and attitudes to come from the bottom up, rather than being forced down from the top. We do find that parents are looking for schools that underline values in a sociey that has become increasingly value-less.


Pauline Jackson

St Andrew’s School for Girls
Affiliation: Christian, Interdenominational
Once again, this is the parents’ personal choice. Parents may want their child to be educated in an environment whose ethos upholds the tenets of a particular religion. Others may choose a more diverse faith based environment where values are emphasized as not only part of an ethos but of spiritual development. It is important that a school’s academic education and social development includes morals and values as a base for preparing young adults to enter society.


Roger Cameron

St John’s College
Affiliation: Anglican
At the heart of good education is the teaching of sound values and a deep respect for people of other faiths and beliefs. All education should acknowledge God the Creator and begin the day with an act of worship. Out of this flows a calling to boys and girls to live their lives, not purely for themselves, but in service to others. In today’s very secular and materialistic age this adds enormous value to the quality of education that a child receives. Therefore I believe that a faith-based education provides a qualitatively better education than a secular education.


Shawn Thomson

Curro Aurora Private School
Affiliation: Secular
We are, ultimately, preparing our charges for a pro-active, empowered life of citizenship in a secular world. We therefore base our education in a secular model. However, as a school that embraces every individual, we celebrate and enjoy a multi-faith environment. Consequently, we believe that students benefit enormously from their multi-faith interactions. An ethos thus imbues tolerance, respect and the ability to place value on the faiths/beliefs of others. Thus, while providing an education which acknowledges a secular environment, it should be an educational offering based on values, ethics and morality.


Marilyn Bothma

Brescia House
Affiliation: Catholic
A holistic education, which gives equal attention to spiritual, academic, physical and social development, should also develop emotional skills. Such an education should teach learners how to find happiness in life.


Marc Loon

Kairos School of Inquiry
Affiliation: Secular
Diversity is a core value at our school. While we are open to allow faith-based education to occur in our school grounds extra-curricularly, the school itself is not faith-specific (although I’m not entirely comfortable with the term “secular”). Moreover, as part of our value of diversity, we also emphasise multicultural awareness, both in terms of the differences we discover in each other’s cultural backgrounds, and those in cultures we do not enjoy (yet) in our school.


Stephen Lowry

St Stithians
Affiliation: Methodist
If we want to educate children to aspire to a sound value system that will produce positive and constructive citizens of our country then the education system has to be based on a set of positive values and attitudes such as honesty, integrity, resilience, commitment, hard work and trustworthiness. Values which will lead to a lifetime commitment of espousing broader social values, such as, peace, justice, equality and so on. All schools, secular or faith-based, should be teaching and imparting these values and attitudes to the learners. I happen to believe that faith-based schools are able to do this probably more easily than secular schools.


Anastasia Krystallides

Saheti School
Affiliation: Greek Orthodox
We are a school based in Hellenic culture, and therefore we are affiliated to the Greek Orthodox Church. However, our main reason for being here is education, and we therefore do not allocate school time for any religious event. We obviously offer Religious Instruction that forms part of the normal Life Orientation syllabus, but we do not proselitise. We do attend to Greek national holidays, of which Easter is one, but we do not force any children to participate. We leave it to the parents to guide their children. Having said that, many of our children and their parents do attend the Sunday morning services that are held in the chapel on the same grounds as our school. It’s an outflow of the community we serve, though, rather than a specific effort from the school.

This article originally appeared in the Mail & Guardian newspaper as a sponsored supplement

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