Religious schools are often shrouded in mystery to those outside the faith. Yet faith-based schools are often well placed to meet the needs of a broader cohort, largely due to the fact that many religious values mesh neatly with the basic moral tenets of education, such as learning, integrity, wisdom and service.
Belief in the curriculum
The vast majority of faith-based schools in Hong Kong facilitate globally recognisable curricula, such as the IB or IGCSE. Such schools’ distinguishing features emphasise pastoral or personal development in accordance with the teachings of the faith, plus the close study of religious texts and some adherence to spiritual practices.
“We are an evangelical Christian school that uses academic and extracurricular programs to develop the whole student – intellectually, physically, socially, emotionally and spiritually,” says Mr Brad Dutton from International Christian School. “The intersection of Christian belief, the liberal arts and sciences, and an ethic of service, provide an educational perspective that unites theory with practice, leading to an increased understanding of God, self, and the world.”
Mr Jeff Auty, head of the Science department at ICS, says the school follows an internationally recognised curriculum, preparing students for life in the 21st century. “In science, we teach the Next Generation Science Standards, encouraging our students to fully explore the world in which they live and fully preparing them for college-level courses,” says Mr Auty. “At the same time, our curriculum is founded on a Biblical worldview. In science, this means that ethical and other issues associated with certain science practices are examined in detail. As a school, we believe there does not need to be any fundamental conflict between rigorous scientific study and Christian beliefs.”
This mission to shape successful students in a united package of culture, morals and academics, extends to schools of all faiths and doctrines. “As a Jewish school, we imbue all we do with our Jewish philosophy, belief and practice,” says Ms Rachel Friedmann from Carmel School Hong Kong. “Our aim is to equip students with a strong moral and spiritual compass, both to support their development and to prepare them to cope with the challenges of adulthood. Moreover, the discipline provided by the textual study, Jewish historical knowledge, and acquiring knowledge of Jewish practice and rituals, stimulates critical thinking and personal development, and directly extends academic outcomes.” Carmel’s high school accepts students of all faiths and this promotes tolerance and understanding as well as shared values of academic excellence and family.
Accepting all faiths
Faith-based schools are often overlooked by secular families who feel they are not suitable for their children, but most of these schools remain open and inclusive in order to reflect the societies they serve. “We welcome families of all faiths or none, and don’t have any requirements for religious affiliation,” says Mr Nick Banks from Generations Christian Education, a non-profit organisation specialising in early childhood and primary schooling. “Our school communities are very diverse in this area, with a large proportion of our families coming from non-Christian backgrounds. We only require that our families embrace the school’s vision, mission, values and educational philosophy, which includes of course the understanding that Christian perspectives are a central part of our school’s day-to-day life.”
Connecting with the community
Religious schools are often well connected to local communities, and so provide unique opportunities for students to connect with the world around them, and to ‘act’ in accordance with the values of the faith. “Faith-based education invites students to find their true calling, meaning, and place in the world,” says Mr Dutton from ICS. “An education that goes beyond curriculum alone; that develops character, relationship-building and a compassionate heart of service, is an investment that will continue to reson
ate and impact students throughout their lives. ICS has a number of specific programs designed to nurture spiritual life, spiritual service, and spiritual leadership in students.”
Likewise, Mr Banks from Generations Christian Education sees the service component of attending a religious school as an intrinsic part of their mission. “Our students benefit from connections with local Christian organisations and the wider Christian community in Hong Kong, which not only provide them with perspectives on how faith is lived out in the community, but also with opportunities to serve the needy, disadvantaged, and elderly in our city. We believe that challenging our students to look outward and to love their neighbour as themselves is an essential part of character development.”
In an age of increasing anxiety and loneliness, it seems that sometimes wisdom can come from the likeliest places.
Carmel School Association Elsa High School – In Conversation with Students and Faculty – is on 16 January 2018 ; 3:30-5:30PM
International Christian School will resume school tours in March 2018, Contact the Admissions Office on 3920-0001 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Island Christian Academy run regular school tours email@example.com.