In my column two weeks ago, I informed the archdiocese about the three pastoral initiatives concerning Catholic education/formation that were announced to the media houses in the nation at Archbishop’s House on September 26.
I then offered a summary explanation of one of the education/formation initiatives, the Values and Virtues Programme. (Cf Catholic News, October 14 edition) This week, I want to explain another of the three initiatives, the Revitalisation of Catholic Education Programme.
The Catholic Church operates 120 Primary Schools (23% of all primary schools in the nation) and 20 secondary schools.
When I arrived in the Archdiocese in 2001, I asked two questions about our schools:
1) How Catholic are the Catholic schools?
2) What is the quality of the holistic programmes that serve the needs of the students in Catholic schools?
The second question applies to two phases of Catholic education/formation. It obviously applies to the students while they are in school.
However, it also applies to them after they graduate i.e. whether, as a result of their school experience, they have chosen lifelong Catholic education/formation as the means to mature as a believing person.
The answers to those two questions are:
1) Many of our schools are in excellent condition on the level of Catholic identity and quality programming. Each year they are among the leading schools in objective testing. There are waiting lists to enter these schools.
2) Other schools while still strong on the level of Catholic identity and very competitive in objective testing have growth issues that need to be addressed. Yet these schools also have waiting lists for admission.
3) Some of our schools for various reasons need significant attention.
The revitalisation project will concern itself with all three categories of schools:
1) to help the schools that are in excellent condition to move into the category of being outstanding schools;
2) to help the schools with growth issues to move into the category of being excellent schools; and
3) to help the schools that need significant attention become competitive and eventually excellent.
Prenote to overview
The archdiocese recognises the significant role Catholic education has played in the life of the nation. It is also aware that parents in Trinidad and Tobago still hold Catholic education in high regard.
To maintain and, in some cases, regain the tradition of excellence, the archdiocese has begun a transformational improvement programme for its schools.
It commits itself to providing enabling attention to each school for the longterm to assist principals and teachers to achieve the goals of quality education/formation. Every school will be given professional assistance throughout the programme.
The programme will have five strategies:
1) Defining Mission and Vision for Catholic Education.
The truth is there are multiple visions of Catholic education/formation. Even excellent schools are different from each other and, at times, from the catechetical department of the archdiocese.
There is a need to bring all key stakeholders together (principals, parents, teachers, religious communities, clergy and the departments of the archdiocese) to articulate a Vision and Mission for Catholic education/formation for all schools;
2) Decentralise Administration
In a context of dialogue that will involve all the key stakeholders, the Catholic Education Board of Management will be decentralised in this sense: it will continue to represent the Archdiocese to the Ministry of Education and the Teaching Service Commission but will have an office in each of the five vicariates of the Archdiocese headed by a Catholic School Supervisor who will become the manager of the schools in the vicariate.
This will free parish priests/administrators from the burden of administration and allow them to concentrate on spiritual values formation. A property manager will be attached to the office of each Catholic School Supervisor to assess on a regular basis the physical condition of the school.
3) Develop a Results-OrientedSchool Culture
The results-oriented school culture will be designed to support the holistic development of students so that at the end of a three to five year period there should be a discernible improvement in the performance of students in the following areas: academics, discipline, social interaction and service activities. Values Formation Coordinators will visit schools, analyze conditions, make recommendations and train teachers for the Values Formation curriculum.
4) Transform the Schools to Support a Teaching/Learning Environment
There is a need to upgrade significantly the physical environment of many of our schools. In addition, due to rapid technological progress there is also need to have access to computer equipment.
5) CapacityBuilding for Primary School Principals and Vice Principals
In the projected process of transformation, the school principal and vice principal must become agents of change. They need to understand and have competence in strategic planning, change management and leadership. These responsibilities will require specialised training for principals and vice principals which will be provided by the archdiocese.
The first phase of the revitalisation programme for Catholic education/formation has already begun. The implementation of the five strategies will be evaluated in dialogue on a regular basis to keep all the stakeholders informed and involved.
I respectfully request the sustained collaboration of all stakeholders in this very important process. I also request the prayerful support of all members of the archdiocese.