Friday, October 31, 2008

The virtues of a Christian school

Since we're talking about Christian schools, let me take this opportunity to extol the virtues of having your kids in one.

Quoting YY here:

"Personally on looking back I'm very glad my girl went to a Christian secondary school. It was a close-knit community infused with warmth & caring which tenderly nurtured her sensitive soul. My personal prejudice is that in a Christian school the emphasize on academic merits is less 'brutal' and the children are exposed to the idea that God is involved in every detail of your life, in your studies, your family & in your social life.

Whereas in a highly-competitive non-religious school (like RGS for e.g., but not exclusive to RGS) the ethos held up to be nonnegotiable are performance excellence, diligence & cut-throat competition.

In a highly-competitive, non-religious school there is not much time given to ideas that one has value & worth in simply being a unique individual--regardless of one's performance. I would imagine that ideas of 'caring for the weak ones amongst us' would be perfunctorily endorsed as a characteristic of a civil society, but without the kind of commitment to it that would come from a school run on Christocentric ideas of universal love & selflessness."

One of the main reasons we chose our kids' school was because it is a Christian school. At the school, the emphasis on values and nurturing spirituality is very prominent, which is what I love about the school.

I know schools, like companies and organisations, can make many lofty claims about their values that they don't actually uphold. But from what I can see at their school, they really do put their words into action. Everyday before school begins, there is devotion led by either a teacher or a member of the Pastoral Care team. A prayer is said, a verse read and a short story told to elaborate on the verse. During exam periods, the chosen verse is usually something the kids can relate to, like on God's guidance during difficult times. Every Friday, a member of the Pastoral Care team will address the kids during assembly, either telling a story or teaching a lesson from the bible. There is a prayer box in the canteen where any kid can put in a prayer request. The Parent Support Group collects the requests and prays for the kids. At the end of the school year, there is a Closing Service to give thanks to God for seeing them through another year.

Apart from these activities, because the school is a Christian school, it is a natural magnet for children and teachers from Christian families and this is another big plus for me. I like the fact that my kids are being surrounded by like-minded peers and teachers who uphold the same love of God and Christian values in their everyday life, especially during the impressionable primary school years. In one of Lesley-Anne's journal entries in p4, she wrote about being undecided as to whether she should become a vet or a dancer when she grew up. This was the comment written by her teacher:

Doesn't that just warm your heart? I'm pretty sure you won't find this in a non-Christian school even if the teacher is a Christian because it would be considered politically insensitive.

The Christ-centricism is very strong among the kids at the school. I recall an amusing incident when Lesley-Anne was in p1. She had tripped when she was alighting from the school bus and grazed her knee. As she clutched her bleeding knee in pain, a friend said, "I'll pray for you" and immediately launched into prayer for God to heal the knee! Of course in this case, it would have been more practical to help her to the sick bay but it was touching to see that resolute, innocent belief that God can fix anything. Faith of the children.

This is only my experience with my kids' school, so I cannot speak for other Christian schools. But I suspect it should be the same elsewhere. I have heard, for instance, that the Parent Support Group at ACS also prays for the students. Kenneth and I both studied at Catholic schools, and the focus on spirituality there was not so prominent. But then I do think there are differences in the ethos between Catholic and Christian schools, just like there are different practices in the Catholic and Protestant churches. (Just my opinion!!)

After having seen Lesley-Anne blossom after five years at her school and Andre two, I can say with absolutely certainty that choosing that school for my kids has been one of the best decisions we've ever made as parents.


Anonymous said...

Interesting topic. Not sure if it is still the same.....but during my days of schooling, the general perception was the most havoc and most obnoxious behaviour came from "convent" girls. Most pregnant stories I heard were convent girls and one JC well-known for wayward behaviour was also a Christ-related one. Even when I converged and met some of them in JC, the same seemed to hold true of the behaviour for the majority..(maybe it was only my time...suay suay let me see them in action...haha) Of course I am generalising here so no offence to anyone from convent school. So my point is it is good that the school tries to provide a foundation to help the children thrive in learning good values and be God-fearing warriors but ultimately I find home plays a larger role in moulding that effectively and alot also depends on the child's determination to stay on track. Certainly, based on the "brain-washing" theory, consistent exposure will certainly create the imprint....but consistent exposure has to be holistic to include the other aspects of a child's life. School alone may not be as effective if I may use the "convent" girls as example. JMHO.

Btw, my kid attends a church kindy(see, I also believe in this daily indoctrination of values...haha) and I can see all the pleasures of singing in her of Christian songs. And it is true that in every adversity she meets with, she prays.. :D However, when it comes to fights with classmates, I don't think she has a lesser share of it. The only benefit I see is after each fight, she becomes a stronger little person with each learning after our "reinforcement" small talk.


monlim said...

QX: That's why I believe there are very distinct differences between Catholic and Christian schools, although it's probably not PC to say so. All the convents are Catholic, I suspect also the JC you're mentioning. When I was at the convent, there wasn't much in way of promoting Christ in school. Only a standard prayer every morning (Our Father or Hail Mary) and a service at the start of the school year. The teachers never prayed for the kids or taught bible lessons. At most, the Catholics attended Catholicism separately.

But of course I'm not saying all kids who attend Christian schools are saints - there are still kids who lie, kids who cheat, kids who fight, etc. But at least the philosophy influences even the way these issues are resolved and I guess if you've been indoctrinated with the same values for 6 years, there's a higher chance you will internalise some of it!

Anonymous said...

Pardon me, I need to ask a silly question... Are all CHIJ schs convent sch? Are convent sch consider catholic? My gal is in CHIJ St Nicholas Girls', I think it is a convent sch. They do pray every morning & afternoon by a student. The whole sch also pray for one of the sch gal who had an accident and in critical condition, the principal also asked the students to continue praying at home for this gal. My daughter came back and requested us to pray for this gal together. I overheard the principal praying together with the PSLE & the O level students in the hall and gave some encouragement speech before letting them go to the classroom for exam. I find this is very sweet. The secondary & the primary share the same canteen & family lounge, and they have weekly family meeting at the open field, where by the big che che & the small mei mei all gather together and pray & after that the principal gives announcements and some speech. I just asked my gal and she said they do have bible study once a week. Can't share much cause only been there for a year, so far the students behaviour are acceptable.

monlim said...

Anon: As far as I know, all convent schools (incl.CHIJ) are Catholic schools. You can find the list of Catholic schools here

It's great to hear that St. Nic's has such a strong prayer culture (I have definitely not heard any stories of "havoc" girls from there). I think the practice is different from school to school so please don't take my remarks to mean that ALL Catholic schools don't promote Christ-like values. I can only speak from my own and my friends' experiences.

Anonymous said...

Anon: Yeah, I was talking about general perception too. I believe the IJ schools have produced very strongly religious kids and the other spectrum as well...just that some perceptions created by the not-so-religious ones stay and unfortunately they wear the same school uniforms.

Mon: It's good that you share the distinction there for my benefit cos I have just looked upon it as religious and non-religious schools. I was in "aethist" schools all my life but I believe there was a certain "spirit" that the schools were promoting to make us toe the line where values were concerned. Recently I heard my "aethist" primary school had very good PVG that started a CDP(thanks to gahmen again, character development program) focus group to deliver the training that non-religious school would be missing out.


Anonymous said...

Sorry again Mon...the silly question was asked by me. I forgot to sign off again...*paiseh*


monlim said...

Chris: no worries! And not silly question lah... just a suggestion - why don't u sign up for an account with google/blogger? then when you comment, it won't come up as anonymous :)

breve1970 said...

Hi qx

Am just wondering if the "aethist school" you meant is the school I am currently involved in as a Parent Volunteer. Am one of the parents involved in the school's character development programme for this year. Great programme to follow and introduce in a secular school, I must say:). You agree?

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