CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 15 September 2018

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Core values of Catholic schools

Over the past academic year, the education sector in Hong Kong has handled many thorny issues, including class size reduction and school closures, stress on teachers, the impact of the direct-subsidy-scheme, the introduction of national education and the schooling of Shenzhen-Hong Kong cross-border students.

What is worrying on the education scene is that campuses have recently been impacted upon by politicised events in Hong Kong society.

Schools are no longer simply a happy land for teaching and learning, and stakeholders at many schools have gradually become bewildered about how education should move forward.

All of the 200-odd Catholic schools in Hong Kong have had to handle the tough job of setting up incorporated management committees, which must be in place by September 2015. It is easy to imagine the pressure school leadership and teachers are under.

Indentifying the philosophical basis that underpins Catholic schools is a big challenge. In dealing with such issues as English-medium education over Chinese-medium education, the direct subsidy scheme and national education, school leadership must reflect on why we have Catholic schools in the first place.

They aim to introduce Catholic life views to students and their primary role is to encourage them to embrace the core values upheld by the Catholic Church.

In setting up incorporated management committees, we are including five core values—truth, justice, charity, life and family—into school constitutions. This is the mission that the leadership of each Catholic school must uphold. In fact, over the past three decades of social change in Hong Kong, the diocese has adhered closely to a Catholic educational philosophy.

We must persevere with professionalism, openness and humility, while remembering the pioneering work of our predecessors.

In a society often mired with lies and half truths, the image of teachers has been tarnished, students have become rebellious and workloads excessive. Teachers need to reflect on the purpose of their profession and the expectations of Catholic schools.

They should be role models for their students, believing in and living out what they teach. The Church also expects them to be the shepherds of young minds.

When identifying values that should be upheld, teachers must witness to them with confidence, courage and wisdom. A good educational environment takes many years to build and so teachers must be patient. 

The job of every teacher is tough, but important. They are like a mustard seed doing a sacred job which can have an invisible, formative, life-giving influence on students.

Every lesson, every hour spent with the students and every caring word can have a profound effect on the life of a student. Instead of belittling themselves, teachers should image themselves as following in the footsteps of Jesus Christ, the great teacher of all time and the Good Shepherd. Their challenge is to stay positive in an often hostile atmosphere in order to witness to the truth.

 

Catholic schools have a challenging mission, especially since society has high expectations of them. Amidst change, may we identify clearly what we must uphold and uphold what we have identified, so as to be the light and voice of education and enable Catholic education to be the salt and yeast of society. SE