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Cardus Education Survey 2016: Educating to love your neighbour

 “Cardus Education exists to provide reliable, credible data for non-government types of education. 

Why? Because the opportunity for non-government schools to operate freely is not something that we can take for granted. And because, for those supporting non-government education and wanting to measure it, gut instinct is no longer good enough” (cardus.ca/research/education).

Since 2011, Cardus Education has surveyed graduates of Christian schools in the U.S. and Canada, seeking to explore the nature and impact of Christian education. Previous studies were published in the U.S. in 2011 and 2014, and in Canada in 2012 (as reported on then in Christian Courier). In October, Cardus Education released a 2016 Canadian update, the results of a survey of graduates from 968 public schools and 359 independent schools.

Contrary to too-common stereotypes and misperceptions, private education does not produce graduates that are sheltered and withdrawn from public life, or indifferent to the wellbeing and flourishing of those beyond school walls. The 2016 study shows that Canadian Christian private schools “meet or exceed all aims of public education across Canada,” producing graduates who are likely to:

Be valuable contributors to the economy and value further education and life-long learning

Be informed citizens who value democratic participation and civic engagement

Be confident, responsible, self-sufficient, honest, fair and ethical adults

Contribute to a peaceful, pluralistic and cohesive society

Live personally fulfilled and healthy lives (Cardus 2016 Backgrounder, p. 1-2).

Christian Courier connected with Beth Green, Cardus Education’s Program Director, who highlighted what she considered to be two key aspects of this ground-breaking research. First, each of the Cardus surveys has clearly demonstrated that graduates of private Christian schools in Canada and the U.S. are “not de facto socially isolated, politically radical and religiously fundamentalist.” Instead, the study powerfully communicates “the tremendous potential of Christian education to grow graduates who ‘love their neighbour’ and contribute to the flourishing of our common life together.”

The result of this research is important for the ongoing public debate concerning the nature and role of independent schools. The rhetoric and vitriol that can often accompany such discussions too easily dismisses the valuable contribution private Christian schools make to society. But research now shows that graduates from these schools are far more likely to contribute to the public good than to obstruct it. This seemingly obvious insight is often overlooked from the outside looking in (and, somewhat paradoxically, occasionally from the inside looking out).   

Good news for Christian Ed
There is no perfect school. Graduates of Christian education sometimes lament that their schooling experiences did not adequately prepare them for the “real world.” Cardus Education’s research suggests, however, that private Christian schools graduate individuals who are well-prepared to contribute to society in a number of very important ways, and that these schools do as well or better in equipping their graduates than other schools, including the public school system. Having spent a number of years working and teaching in Ontario, I am encouraged by the survey results. They match my own experiences. I have been disappointed to hear of the misperceptions that others often have of private Christian schools because it allows them to overlook the amazing students I have worked with. Many of the students I have taught are people of character and integrity who will do far more than “contribute to the public good.” For others to perceive them as sheltered, ignorant and myopic is painful to hear, given the reality I have experienced. In this context, I am encouraged (but not surprised) by the results of Cardus Education’s research. 

Those involved in Christian education can celebrate the good news. Those considering Christian education should explore the study for themselves, because it provides important insights that should inform schooling decisions. And supporters of Christian education can raise our voices with confidence, citing the results of Cardus Education’s research. Those who support Christian schools should be spreading this news. There are those who need to hear it.

The full report is available at cardus.ca.

  • Sean is Assistant Professor of Education at Redeemer and former News Editor for Christian Courier. Sean’s research focuses on the communication of educational care. He appreciates CC’s cultural relevance, Biblical distinctiveness and willingness to address the complexity of living with hope and courage in a broken world.

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