‘Change is normal, but it must be managed purposefully’
ANCASTER, ON – The Ontario Alliance of Christian Schools (OACS) executive director Dr. Adrian Guldemond delivered a keynote at the spring learning conference exploring the new chapter for Christian schools as cultural changes take place and open up challenges and opportunities in education.
The speech was one of a series on Christian Schools in an Age of Identity Drift. The major challenges Christian schools are facing include demographics, economics, IT education and communications, and theology and social changes.
“The question of change in education is a topic we have been talking about for at least a decade,” said Guldemond, adding the interpretation of a good school’s characteristics is a moving target.
The OACS is planning for the future and projecting what schools will look like in the year 2020. The organization is looking to ensure there is adequate input from schools regarding their needs for the future of good schooling, he noted.
“What we really notice is a change in the last 10 years, (and this is) one particular thing the principals are noting, and that is the enrolment changes are becoming unpredictable … the motives and the reasons for making these decisions are not the ones we are used to,” he said.
“There’s a whole shift in terms of attitudes to schooling decisions which we need to examine a little more carefully and be aware of,” Guldemond said.
Parental schooling decisions are becoming much more complex and customized, he noted, upsetting the cookie cutter assumption about families and the family needs. This is due to shifting worldviews in education and parenting, leading to a new set of expectations about schools that may force changes in operating principles.
When OACS schools were founded in the 1950s, 80 per cent of the population worked in agriculture and communities were villages where everyone knew about one another. In 2000, society had evolved to become a global village, where three per cent of the population works in agriculture, he said.
Another change is economists are pointing to the disappearance of the middle class, said Guldemond, and the OACS schools were set up with the middle class model in mind.
Theological changes include the disappearance of denominational loyalties, a feature that directly impacts the way schools are thought about, he said, adding the assumptions about church rules where the schools began need to be re-examined.
The Internet is generating more transparency within organizations, creating an instant culture of comparison that results in competition by comparison, said Guldemond.
The OACS is encouraging schools to consider publishing their Canadian Tests of Basic Skills results on a new website being developed. The OACS has advocated for schools to publish their results not only because many are good results but also to promote transparency.
Guldemond said the vision schools were founded on is as sound and as relevant as ever. This vision is that the goal and purpose of the Christian school system was and is to graduate mature adults able to serve as citizens of two kingdoms by being responsible, productive and creative ambassadors of God’s grace.
The vision and core values from the reformed traditions do not need amendment, but do need refinement, said Guldemond. If the organization is considered to be a soul and the body is the practices used to deliver its vision to the world, the OACS body is now 50 years old and aging, he noted.
“Change is normal, but it must be managed purposefully,” he said.
“Leaders must continuously define the soul of the organization and make adjustments to the secondary features in terms of the body of the organization, the structures, the stakeholders, the processes necessary to deliver the mission and this is done by regularly adjusting the operating principles.”
Decisions on what to change should be based on a critical analysis of the environment in order to ensure relevancy and integrity, he said.
“Ultimately the credibly of the organization depends on the fact that the organization is perceived to serve the public good,” said Guldemond.
“I don’t think we need to be afraid of the future as we keep this calling in mind, the future is not a threat to Christians, but it can’t be taken for granted either.”