Michael Emm on the choices facing the Catholic community in the instruction of the young.
THROUGHOUT England and Wales secondary education is undergoing some profound changes. Such changes will not leave the Catholic sector unmoved. Falling rolls and the reorganisation of schools are having a dramatic effect on the availability of Catholic education in many areas.
The curriculum will be heavily influenced by new examination structures such as the General Certificate of Secondary Education. What society requires front the education service is under scrutiny and traditional systems, especially in the 14-18 years old category, will be subject to competition from new directions, such as the Youth Training Scheme.
The future must be considered and predictions made for the needs of the school leaver at the end of the millennium.
With so many changes taking place, or about to take place, the Catholic community must examine its educational system, a system which developed under different historical circumstances to fulfil needs which no longer may apply to the same extent.
Any review of the present situation and future needs must start with the aims and objectives of Catholic education. The Code of Canon Law states that "Education must pay regard to the formation of the whole person, so that all may attain their eternal destiny and at the same time promote the common good of society. Children and young persons are therefore to be cared for in such a way that their physical, moral and intellectual talents may develop in a harmonious manner, so that they may attain a greater sense of responsibility, and a right use of freedom, and he formed to take an active part in social life" (Canon 795).
Surely, these aims will be as valid in the year 2000 as they were whenour forefathers struggled to create distinctive Catholic schools from the "penny outdoor collection". Parents should consider whether the school attended by their children reflects the ideals of Canon 795 in its daily life.
The current problem of falling rolls, which is now affecting secondary education, has placed a great strain on some schools in developing the physical and intellectual, if not the moral talents of their pupils. Some areas, like Liverpool, have
already been subjected to largescale changes in the secondary provision, • other areas are currently in the process of reorganisation. This has led to much soul-searching and conflict of loyalties in those communities.
There are those who argue that it would be better to keep all Catholic schools open, even if it means that to maintain them as educationally viable propositions a higher proportion of non-Catholic children.
Both viewpoints reflect different, though not necessarily opposing visions of the mission of the Church, through her schools, in the world today. The problem would not be of the present magnitude, sad to say, if all Catholic parents were cam m ited to sending their children to Catholic schools.
Children who are in the second year of an 11-18 school will be entered for a new examination, the General Certificate of Secondary Education, a single examination system which will come into operation in 1986, for examination in 1988. It will replace the present GCE and CSE systems. The new syllabuses will be required to conform to national criteria. Catholic educators should take this opportunity to ensure that material which undermines the content and concepts of Christian life is not included in these syllabuses.
This includes History, Geography, Biology and Literature as much as it does Religious Education. It affects the whole eurticulum, "the formation of the whole person". Parents should ensure that the Religious Studies examination taken by their children reflects the teachings, traditions and living faith of the Church and is not a general religion paper designed for no-one in particular.
Changing patterns in employment and leisure and the development of agencies, other than schools, with educational functions necessitates a fresh look at education provision for Catholic children from 14 years on. What facility is there in YTS schemes or Tertiary Colleges for the Catholic dimension of the education of teenagers in those crucial years? Whose responsibility is it? These are questions which should be considered by the Catholic community.