Catholic schools: how much accountability?

Catholic schools: how much accountability?

Michael Gilchrist

As another school year gets underway we need to remind ourselves of the essential goal of Catholic schools, namely, to foster practising Catholic graduates. Merely replicating what is achieved by high quality non-Catholic private schools and State schools hardly justifies the continued existence of large, separate and expensive Catholic systems of education.

In most human endeavours, a "strike rate" of ten per cent or less would lead to critical self-examination and radical surgery. However, with some exceptions, e.g., Bishop Jarrett of Lismore's frank analysis on page 7, those responsible for the effectiveness of Catholic schooling across Australia remain largely unaccountable, if not in a state of denial.

The late Br Marcellin Flynn undertook a series of exhaustive research projects on the beliefs and practices of Catholic students over several decades, with each succeeding set of findings revealing further decline. These findings, in turn, were complemented by the research of Professor Denis McLaughlin of Australian Catholic University on the products of Catholic schools at ACU.

AD2000 has given prominence over the past decade or more to these findings (see our website).

Most recently, Br Luke Saker of Edith Cowan University, WA, has completed research on the beliefs of young Catholics intending to teach religion in Catholic schools (see page 6). His findings, which were given extensive coverage in the Perth Archdiocesan weekly, The Record, confirmed those of Br Flynn and Professor McLaughlin.

Over thirty years have passed since the misconceived pupil-centred, content-light approach was launched, during which time a succession of publications have emanated from the Holy See (including the Catechism of the Catholic Church) setting out the requirements of sound religion teaching. Yet there continues to be relatively little soul-searching.

While signs of hope are evident in some parishes, schools and dioceses, the broader picture reveals inadequate accountability for the dismal spiritual results of up to 13 years of Catholic schooling. It is obvious many of our educational bodies need major shake-ups - if it is not already too late.

Michael Gilchrist: Editor (email -

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