Parents are the first educators of their children. This process begins, in many cases, in the womb as often expectant mothers sing or tell stories to their unborn child. Subsequently, in infancy, a child’s development is the overwhelming responsibility of their parents. Even as a child grows and develops, few would dispute that the parents have the primary responsibility for their child’s education and development.
As a child ages, of course, this responsibility increasingly becomes a shared one, and other stakeholders, beyond the family unit, become increasingly significant to the child’s development. Nevertheless, the role played by parents in the education of their children is always a pivotal one and must never be underestimated. In fact, by the time a child even reaches nursery school s/he has already developed more than they will in their entire school experience.
Few would dispute that among all educational instruments the school has special importance. Schools are designed to develop the intellectual faculties but their role extends far beyond being centres of academia. A school has a duty to help children to learn how to make moral decisions, to hand on the cultural legacy of bygone generations, to foster a sense of values, and to prepare students for college and the workplace. Those who exalt so-called traditional teaching methods are displaying a gross misunderstanding of the nature and purpose of education. Children are not empty vessels waiting for a teacher to pour knowledge into them, or economic fodder to be prepared for the world of work, but are human beings deserving of a holistic education that caters for all of their needs. To focus merely on academics, and preparedness for adulthood is to undermine the dignity of a complex human person.
Moreover, a school should be a melting pot of children with different gifts and talents, from different backgrounds, that promotes friendly relations and fosters a spirit of mutual understand and respect. In order to meet these lofty goals, it is imperative that a school becomes a centre whose work and progress is shared between families, teachers, associations of various types that foster cultural, civic and religious life, as well as by civil society and the entire community.
Thus in order to be effective, it is essential that a school:
- Recruits and retains outstanding teachers who can deploy a range of pedagogical styles that engage students and best develop their intellectual qualities.
- Has excellent Professional Development to enable teachers to grow and develop.
- Has strong academically rigorous programs that challenge all students to achieve their full potential, whilst promoting the transfer of learning between subjects, and recognising that each subject should be taught according to its own methods.
- An authentic curriculum that is broad in its scope and reinforces the vision and mission of the school, whilst promoting equal opportunities, equality, respect, social justice, peace and reconciliation, cultural awareness, rights and responsibilities, human dignity, solidarity and eco-literacy.
- Develops support structures for students with additional needs — including the less able, those who speak English as an additional language, and the gifted and talented.
- Designs values-based programs that foster a sense of morality, and focus on the development of the whole child: socially, morally, physically and spiritually.
- Builds and sustains secure relationships with parents and other stakeholders.
- Has a focus on preparing students for life beyond school.