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Upholding the principles of Catholic education

 The theme for Education Day this year is Commitment and Companionship. As one of the core principles of Catholic education, it is calling on teachers to be good shepherds and encouraging each person working in the field of education to make Jesus their role model, to be prepared to commit to guiding and walking with young people on a life journey that is full of challenges.

The core principles governing Catholic education in Hong Kong include religious and moral dimensions, providing education to all people, treating everyone equally, prioritising the poor and the needy, and making every effort to create a loving and caring school environment.

These have shaped the unique identity of Catholic education and are, in fact, founded upon the teachings and values embraced by the Church: the quest for spiritual enlightenment, respect for human rights, equality, love and peace. It is not difficult to see that these values are accepted as being universal and are upheld by the global community.

Asking staff in Catholic schools to respect and to teach these values is a reasonable request.

The situation of Catholic education in Hong Kong has three different perspectives and needs to be looked at from the perspective of its relationship with government, parents and students.

The government has entrusted education in the local community to the Church since the middle of the 19th century. The track record of its willingness to work with the Church should be adequate evidence of its understanding of and confidence in Catholic education.

At present, Hong Kong has around 280 Catholic schools and there is evidence to show that their students grow and develop into good citizens. Government recognition of Catholic values also gives these schools a legal foundation and the authority to introduce students to the teaching of the Catholic Church.

On the other side of the coin, the Church also follows the guiding principles laid down by the government. If it fails to honour this agreement, as a school sponsoring body, it would be acting inappropriately and in a manner that is neither legal nor acceptable.

In addition, Catholic schools are popular among parents, who are attracted by the teaching of the Church. They believe that these values will help their children to be righteous. If Church schools stopped fulfilling this undertaking, parental expectations and trust would be breached.

Students also have the right to a Catholic education, so it is the responsibility of Church schools to introduce Catholic values to those who choose them for their education.

Whether they embrace the Catholic faith or not is their personal decision, but they should not be deprived of the right to the knowledge that enables them to make an informed decision.

It is clear that Catholic schools have good reason to request staff, regardless of their personal religious profession or life values, to respect the core values of Catholic education in a professional manner. They are also expected to assist in teaching these values.

On this Education Day they are being urged to become professional good shepherds.

Finally, schools are appealing to every parent and member of the Church to work together in fulfilling this mission, because the family is the first school and parents are the first teachers. The role of the family in providing children with quality education in line with Christian values cannot be neglected. SE