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Faith Based Schools Response to Open Merit
Published by January 09, 2019 back >>>
Archbishop of Suva
Peter Loy Chong
pchong@archdioceseofsuva.com

Faith Based Schools Response to Open Merit Recruiting & Selection System (OMRSS)
Written and presented by Archbishop Peter Chong at a meeting with the Permanent Secretary for Education Tuesday, 8the Jan, 2019.

The Permanent Secretary for Education, I sincerely thank you for calling this meeting. You show us that Faith Based Communities and Schools play an essential role in education in Fiji.

I speak on behalf of the Faith Based Communities which includes the Fiji Council of Churches. In 2018, the FCC was concerned with the appointments of leadership in our schools and its consequences to the unique culture of the schools. I was tasked to write a paper that expresses our concern. Through the Director of Catholic Education, we called together a group of educationalists from the different faith communities to work on our response to OMRS. The ‘communique paper' was presented to FCC for endorsement. It was also presented to Fiji Interfaith Search Group . Finally, the communique paper was sent to MOE.

Today we can look back with gratitude at the work of missionaries in education. The first modern schools were established by the missionaries. Marist Brothers School was established in 1946. Later on, the government took over the education of our children. The Church and government have been partners in education. We acknowledge the contribution of our government to education.

Today we are presented OMRS policy. We, the writers of the communique letter, see the wisdom of its philosophy and we totally support it. We agree that the school leader should have the necessary qualifications, that is knowledge, experience, skill and ability.

However, writers of the ‘communique letter' argue that OMRS is in adequate. It neglects the faith dimension of education and human existence. We are told that religion has no place in the OMRS policy.

• We argue that faith is an indispensable component of education and human existence.

• As Faith Community leaders we hold that ‘Faith is a universal human phenomenon.' All people have some form of faith. Faith is innate to human existence. Therefore, an education system that negates faith is not worthy to be called genuine education.

What is faith?

Human existence consists in freedom. Human beings are spiritual.
Freedom is the power to choose, freedom to think, to commit oneself to a cause, to act in a stable and consistent manner. This deep level of freedom is synonymous with the human spirit.

Freedom becomes real when one is able to act. Thus, the concrete reality and full manifestation of human existence always reside in freedom-in-action. To be able to act – one must have faith.

Human beings are finite – limited. Therefore, human beings are in constant quest for a new being. This quest is more urgent when human beings are faced with threats to meaning and existence; in the face of suffering and death, natural disasters and poverty. The quest for salvation is a universal human question.

The answer to the question of salvation cannot be found in the finite world of human existence.

Humans have therefore developed systems of meaning and fundamental truths to provide unity, meaning, comprehensive order and intelligibility to life – education. These are objects of faith. Faith is the clinging commitment to those objects, truths and values which give meaning and order to human existence.

Therefore, faith is a common human phenomenon. All people have faith.
Faith is a deep level of knowing. Communicating faith needs special educational pedagogy.

A faithless society is a society in deep crisis – loss of meaning and order.

• Faith based schools have unique faith tradition; that is communicated in beliefs, moral principles, values, practices, rituals, devotions, sacred festivals which we hold to communicate truth; not scientific or experimental truth but divine-universal truth.

• For Faith based schools, OMRS policy implies that a person of another faith tradition can lead our school. We are seriously concerned that our children and our future generation will lose the richness of our faith traditions and this will affect the moral standards of the country.

• We affirm that Faith Based Communities are partners with Government in education. We also have a criterion for merit for selecting the leadership of our schools.

To keep the unique identity, culture, and vision of Faith Based Community Schools we need leadership personnel that belongs to our faith traditions. It will be difficult for someone of a different faith tradition to support the unique cultures of our respective schools.

The faith cultures, traditions, and values cannot simply be an academic or merit matter, rather it is lived out, exemplified. St. Pope John II said that teachers must be witnesses. ‘Faith is caught rather than taught.' It is therefore imperative that we have Catholic leadership in our Catholic schools.

The Catholic Church holds that the following are fundamental to the unique culture of Catholic schools.

• Education that is Centered in Christ
• Integral education – more than an education geared towards worldly success; "the Catholic school sets out to be a school for the human person and of human persons."
• Education that provides both intellectual and moral formation
• Education that transmits divine truths - Catholic schools take up the daunting task of freeing boys and girls from the insidious consequences of what Pope Benedict XVI has called the "dictatorship of relativism" – a dictatorship that cripples all genuine education.
• An education system that nurtures the Catholic Culture and practices of the school - through images, symbols, icons, and other objects of traditional devotion. A Catholic School will have a chapel, classroom crucifixes and statues, liturgical celebrations (Prayer & meditation, Eucharist, Sacraments, retreats, devotions) and other sacramental reminders of Catholic life, including good art that is not explicitly religious in its subject matter, should be evident. All these signs embody the culture of Catholicism.

To keep the culture Catholic Schools, Catholic leadership is essential.

Therefore, to merit the leadership in a Catholic School/………… - Principals and Headteachers must have the following:

1. Catholic Headteacher or Principal should be a practicing catholic who gives testimony by his or her life.

2. Christian who strives to imitate Christ, they witness the Christian message not only by word but also by every gesture of their behavior."

3. Non-Christian who should understand and accept the teachings of the Catholic Church and the moral demands of the gospel, and who can contribute to the achievement of the school's Catholic identity and apostolic goals." He or she should have a clear understanding of and commitment to Catholic education.

I now present the Faith Based Communities' submission to MOE

1. To add the Faith Based merit criteria to MOE OMRSS policy – that is, a member of our faith be principal or head of the school. (refer: Open Merit Based Recruitment and Selection Guideline 2.1 re: ‘other characteristics of merit')
Re-introduce: Criteria for appointment – that the appointee should be able to contribute to the special character and culture of the school.

2. To re-introduce consultations between the MOE and the School Management on teacher appointment.

3. We wish to reaffirm our equal partnership in education as owners of the school, with government and parents. (refer to MOE Strategic Plan 2015-18, note faith based and committee schools make up 98% of Fiji Schools)

We make this submission with deep concern for our children and the future generation of our country.We are concerned that our children, our future generation will be deprived of the richness of our faith traditions.

A faithless education system will deteriorate the moral standards of country. A faithless society will have no sense of meaning and order and will be headed for destruction.

Saiyad Khaiyum: “If we will take out all the Faith Based Organisations or to stop running the schools or the Community Committees to stop running the schools, we will have very few Government schools left. It is only through the work of these Faith Based Organisations that we have what we call a network education facility throughout Fiji.”

‘If we take out faith we will lose a network education facility throughout Fiji'.

enOMRSS
written and presented by Archbishop Peter Chong

The Permanent Secretary for Education, I sincerely thank you for calling this meeting. You show us that Faith Based Communities and Schools play an essential role in education in Fiji.

I speak on behalf of the Faith Based Communities which includes the Fiji Council of Churches. In 2018, the FCC was concerned with the appointments of leadership in our schools and its consequences to the unique culture of the schools. I was tasked to write a paper that expresses our concern. Through the Director of Catholic Education, we called together a group of educationalists from the different faith communities to work on our response to OMRS. The ‘communique paper' was presented to FCC for endorsement. It was also presented to Fiji Interfaith Search Group . Finally, the communique paper was sent to MOE.

Today we can look back with gratitude at the work of missionaries in education. The first modern schools were established by the missionaries. Marist Brothers School was established in 1946. Later on, the government took over the education of our children. The Church and government have been partners in education. We acknowledge the contribution of our government to education.

Today we are presented OMRS policy. We, the writers of the communique letter, see the wisdom of its philosophy and we totally support it. We agree that the school leader should have the necessary qualifications, that is knowledge, experience, skill and ability.

However, writers of the ‘communique letter' argue that OMRS is in adequate. It neglects the faith dimension of education and human existence. We are told that religion has no place in the OMRS policy.

• We argue that faith is an indispensable component of education and human existence.

• As Faith Community leaders we hold that ‘Faith is a universal human phenomenon.' All people have some form of faith. Faith is innate to human existence. Therefore, an education system that negates faith is not worthy to be called genuine education.

What is faith?

Human existence consists in freedom. Human beings are spiritual.
Freedom is the power to choose, freedom to think, to commit oneself to a cause, to act in a stable and consistent manner. This deep level of freedom is synonymous with the human spirit.

Freedom becomes real when one is able to act. Thus, the concrete reality and full manifestation of human existence always reside in freedom-in-action. To be able to act – one must have faith.

Human beings are finite – limited. Therefore, human beings are in constant quest for a new being. This quest is more urgent when human beings are faced with threats to meaning and existence; in the face of suffering and death, natural disasters and poverty. The quest for salvation is a universal human question.

The answer to the question of salvation cannot be found in the finite world of human existence.

Humans have therefore developed systems of meaning and fundamental truths to provide unity, meaning, comprehensive order and intelligibility to life – education. These are objects of faith. Faith is the clinging commitment to those objects, truths and values which give meaning and order to human existence.

Therefore, faith is a common human phenomenon. All people have faith.
Faith is a deep level of knowing. Communicating faith needs special educational pedagogy.

A faithless society is a society in deep crisis – loss of meaning and order.

• Faith based schools have unique faith tradition; that is communicated in beliefs, moral principles, values, practices, rituals, devotions, sacred festivals which we hold to communicate truth; not scientific or experimental truth but divine-universal truth.

• For Faith based schools, OMRS policy implies that a person of another faith tradition can lead our school. We are seriously concerned that our children and our future generation will lose the richness of our faith traditions and this will affect the moral standards of the country.

• We affirm that Faith Based Communities are partners with Government in education. We also have a criterion for merit for selecting the leadership of our schools.

To keep the unique identity, culture, and vision of Faith Based Community Schools we need leadership personnel that belongs to our faith traditions. It will be difficult for someone of a different faith tradition to support the unique cultures of our respective schools.

The faith cultures, traditions, and values cannot simply be an academic or merit matter, rather it is lived out, exemplified. St. Pope John II said that teachers must be witnesses. ‘Faith is caught rather than taught.' It is therefore imperative that we have Catholic leadership in our Catholic schools.

The Catholic Church holds that the following are fundamental to the unique culture of Catholic schools.

• Education that is Centered in Christ
• Integral education – more than an education geared towards worldly success; "the Catholic school sets out to be a school for the human person and of human persons."
• Education that provides both intellectual and moral formation
• Education that transmits divine truths - Catholic schools take up the daunting task of freeing boys and girls from the insidious consequences of what Pope Benedict XVI has called the "dictatorship of relativism" – a dictatorship that cripples all genuine education.
• An education system that nurtures the Catholic Culture and practices of the school - through images, symbols, icons, and other objects of traditional devotion. A Catholic School will have a chapel, classroom crucifixes and statues, liturgical celebrations (Prayer & meditation, Eucharist, Sacraments, retreats, devotions) and other sacramental reminders of Catholic life, including good art that is not explicitly religious in its subject matter, should be evident. All these signs embody the culture of Catholicism.

To keep the culture Catholic Schools, Catholic leadership is essential.

Therefore, to merit the leadership in a Catholic School Principals and Headteachers must have the following:

1. Catholic Headteacher or Principal should be a practicing catholic who gives testimony by his or her life.

2. Christian who strives to imitate Christ, they witness the Christian message not only by word but also by every gesture of their behavior."

3. Non-Christian who should understand and accept the teachings of the Catholic Church and the moral demands of the gospel, and who can contribute to the achievement of the school's Catholic identity and apostolic goals." He or she should have a clear understanding of and commitment to Catholic education.

I now present the Faith Based Communities' submission to MOE

1. To add the Faith Based merit criteria to MOE OMRSS policy – that is, a member of our faith be principal or head of the school.
(refer: Open Merit Based Recruitment and Selection Guideline 2.1 re: ‘other characteristics of merit')
Re-introduce: Criteria for appointment – that the appointee should be able to contribute to the special character and culture of the school.

2. To re-introduce consultations between the MOE and the School Management on teacher appointment.

3. We wish to reaffirm our equal partnership in education as owners of the school, with government and parents. (refer to MOE Strategic Plan 2015-18, note faith based and committee schools make up 98% of Fiji Schools)

We make this submission with deep concern for our children and the future generation of our country.We are concerned that our children, our future generation will be deprived of the richness of our faith traditions.

A faithless education system will deteriorate the moral standards of country. A faithless society will have no sense of meaning and order and will be headed for destruction.

Saiyad Khaiyum: “If we will take out all the Faith Based Organisations or to stop running the schools or the Community Committees to stop running the schools, we will have very few Government schools left. It is only through the work of these Faith Based Organisations that we have what we call a network education facility throughout Fiji.”

I will add that ‘If we take out faith from our education system we will lose a network education facility throughout Fiji'.

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