Last Thursday, our system hosted French Archbishop Jean-Louis Bruguès OP, the Vatican’s Secretary of the Congregation for Catholic Education, who is responsible for Catholic educational institutions around the world. While speaking specifically to more than 1,000 leaders about the nature and purpose of Catholic education, I believe his analysis of the challenges schools face today, is not only relevant to Catholic schools but has universal application for all schools.
Archbishop Bruguès called on Catholic schools to adapt to pedagogical evolutions and even anticipate them, saying pedagogy ‘is by nature in constant evolution: one can no longer teach today in the same way as 40 or even 20 years ago’ and to aim ‘at excellence: excellence of knowledge, excellence of its pedagogy, excellence in transmission’.
The pursuit of innovation and excellence should be the aim of all schools as we work to reframe schooling to meet the needs of today’s learners. The digital world is dramatically reshaping the way we live and we need to respond creatively as educators if we are going to keep pace with our students and provide them with the knowledge and skills to navigate and contribute to the world.
This requires new skillsets for both learners and teachers and the Archbishop encouraged educators to engage both curiosity and reason in the way forward.
‘A Catholic school is essentially a school with a sense of curiosity, interested in all the various forms of knowledge and the multiple dimensions of human culture… one in which reason is given a privileged role in the quest for truth, the moral good and beauty…’ Archbishop Jean-Louis Bruguès OP, 2012.
The ability to incorporate human reason in navigating both digital and physical environments is essential to effectively prepare young people for the unknown challenges our world will face. We can harness the insatiable curiosity of our students, and aligned with innovative pedagogy, guide our students in the pursuit of knowledge about the world, about learning, and about ideas. This is achievable and should be a hallmark of all good schools.
Our own Bishop, Anthony Fisher OP, addressed our principals the following day and made the point that in a world marked by secularisation, consumerism, family dysfunction and values disorientation, many – even outside the church – recognise the challenge we have to transmit vision and values.
This is not a specifically Catholic challenge but applies to all schools in the modern world and lies right at the heart of learning and teaching. As educators, we need to approach our students with compassion and understanding of the diversity they bring into the classroom. When we know each of our students as individuals and tailor learning and teaching to meet their needs, we are valuing each student as a distinct person worthy of dignity, trust and respect.
Often the focus on schooling is around economic value, but as educators we need to shift our thinking to see the broader dimension of the human purpose of schooling. In modelling core values to students, educators – regardless of faith background – play a key role in forming the hearts and minds of the young people they teach and enabling them to thrive in an increasingly complex world.
Bishop Anthony expressed his desire that our young people be formed into young men and women of ‘principle, purpose and passion’. We need teachers with principle, purpose and passion, who in the doing and living out of these qualities will strengthen them in their students.
In today’s world learners need good teachers more than ever. Archbishop Bruguès nailed it when he said, ‘the time of teachers has a bright future’. Indeed it has.