Sunday, August 26, 2012

Alternative Education

The future of the country is in the hands of the young, says the principal of the first alternate school in the Catholic educational system. But many of our students, he told the Peace Weekly--referring to the happiness index of the Organization for Economic-Cooperation and Development, which lists Korea as having the lowest happiness rating among students in the 30 countries surveyed--are not happy.  Now that the Catholic Church is experimenting with alternative schools, the hope is that the happiness of our students will be favorably affected.

A number of reasons have been suggested for student unhappiness, financing their college education being one important reason. High-school students often cite another reason: Studying for college entrance exams and the intense competition to score high on the exams puts a great deal of pressure on to succeed. And the biggest  culprit for this current situation, says the principal, has been the disappearance of holistic education.

In an attempt to correct some of the problems, the law has been changed to allow schools to pursue an atypical curriculum that is more varied, natural, and holistic. Some educators feel that this is not a wise move. They worry that the students attending these schools will not be able to fit into society, find work and earn enough money. This is often the way those who are immersed in our industrialized society choose to see the benefits, or lack of benefits, of alternate types of education, compared with the perceived benefits of the current educational  system. 

The Peace Weekly gives an account of a recent workshop-meeting that brought together the teachers and the parents of students attending the first alternative Catholic school in the country. Although the primary emphasis of the school is on character formation, the principal is contemplating a move into more spiritual dimensions of life. If character education is understood to form the person, the spiritual will work to go beyond the person to more community involvement, always searching and working for the common good. Moving in this direction will deepen the freedom and autonomy of the students. When this is achieved, the principal said we will have "a happy school"--a school that students will want to attend.

A professor from the Catholic University is quoted in the article as saying that Catholic schools are now at the crossroads of a new Gospel mission. Whenever Catholic school administrators are tempted by the present educational system to be complacent or to compromise, they should bring to mind the Gospel message and have that inspire  them.