Top teacher says bureaucracy killing schools' charism
A Christian Brother who last month received an Order of Australia Medal for his services to education has said the Catholic education system is in danger of losing the diversity that has made the schools such valued assets in their local communities.
In an article to be published next week in Edmund Rice Network News, Br Dean McGlaughlin of the Holy Spirit Province (WA/SA) warned against a sense of "bigness and bureaucracy" in the system. He said the trend is leading to a "homogenisation" of education.
He said: "Most successful schools in both the government and the Catholic system are those that are able to carve, or retain, a unique identity for themselves and do not become lost in a large system."
Br McGlaughlin was speaking in his capacity as chair of the National Planning Committee that is working out the future governance of the 38 Christian Brothers schools around Australia. He was head of Adelaide's Rostrevor College (1992-2002).
He said that in the best schools, the parent and student community is able to identify and articulate "a unique identity or charism".
"Schools that are just following some formula from central office are generally not the ones distinguishing themselves either through academic, sporting or social results nor in the sense of self-esteem that is given to the parent and student community as well as the individual student."
Br McGlaughlin noted that the growth of Catholic education in Australia was largely only made possible by the input of the religious teaching orders who were responding to the needs of Catholics when they were the poor and the marginalised in Australian society.
"In handing on the governance of our schools to lay boards and staff though," he argued, "we need to take time out to reflect on the great asset that was built into Catholic Education from the very start through the diversity of the many religious orders."
He said that in addition to the Orders' diversity factor, the Christian Brothers derived from their Irish founder Edmund Rice the inspiration to focus on the needs of a local community and to develop a relationship with it accordingly.
"The Christian Brothers helped build and staff schools from the most remote communities in Australia to the most densely populated inner suburbs of Australia's largest cities."
Leading educator pleads for continuing diversity in Catholic Education (Edmund Rice Family Email News Feb 04)
Religious names (Catholic Weekly 1/2/04)
Edmund Rice Family News
Christian Brothers in Australia & New Zealand
Edmund Rice Online
13 Feb 2004