Church schools: a sequel
On April 25 I discussed the role of Church schools in Malta within the context of the opening of the extension of the Archbishop's Seminary. The blog titled "Beautiful more than Controversial" can be accessed from http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20120425/blogs/beautiful-more-than-controversial.417058
A regular writer of my blogs sent me a private email showing his complete disagreement with my statements. While stating that he strongly believes in the role of the Church in this sector he was of the opinion that the Church is going about it the wrong way.
There are many statements in this email (which I reproduce hereunder) with which I do not agree. However I think that this email is intelligently written and should help in the debate about the role of the Church in education that I wished to spur on.
"The controversy over Church schools started due to the sheer incompetence of the Labour Government of the seventies when it tried to impose a progressive system of education without adequate preparation for it, and without having the qualified personnel to do it. What other countries took years if not decades to carry out, we tried it overnight!. As educators had predicted, the result was that the people lost faith in the ability of the Government to provide a satisfactory educational system. The Church, without any systematic programme on the matter and probably without realising the implications of its actions, stepped in to fill the void. The effect was to highlight even more the inadequacies of the state sector. The Government was faced with a very embarrassing situation. It tried to solve it in the typical Mintoffian way – crush the opposition.
"Unfortunately when moderation won, the Church remained without any systematic approach to the education problem. The net result now is a series of problems which face the Church. Unless the situation is addressed urgently, the Church will face further problems of its own making which are not likely to present a good image of the Church to society in the future.
"At present Church schools are private schools heavily subsidised by the taxpayer. Parents who opt for these schools know that it will be much more expensive than sending their children to the state sector. And here the Church faces the first problem: Church schools are not available for the poor. They are not available for the children of parents who have little interest in education. Unfortunately there are still a large number of parents who, for various reasons, are not interested in the education of their children. It is a well-known fact that these are the children who cause most disruption in schools with the resulting effect on the education of the other children. These children are being concentrated in the state sector with the result that their disproportionate presence is creating further difficulties to a state sector already in considerable trouble due to various internal problems.
"Parent who are genuinely interested in the education of their children but who are not willing or unable to send their children to a Church school, have to face a situation where disruption is much more common than in the Church schools. I have been informed that the head of a Church school threatened new entrants to his school that if they cause any disruption they would be transferred to the state sector.
"The recent results of public examinations confirm this. Why should Church schools perform better than state schools when they employ the same teachers, have the same holidays, etc. The answer is simply the control they have on their intake of children.
"The system adopted by the Church is also a cause of distress for children. Children are placed in schools without any concern on their place of residence. Children frequently have to travel long distances, get up early in the morning, etc. just to be on time at school. This policy, which in any other country, would probably qualify as child abuse, is carried out with the blessings of the Church and state.
"Finally why does the Church want control on the educational system of the country? With the present reforms the Church is likely to have as much as 45% of the child population in its schools. Any reforms of educational policies would inevitably create conflicts between church and state, where it is likely that the Church would be the winner. Can a democratically elected government accept such a situation?"
What do you think?