I recently attended the PDS Symposium: The Future of Religion in Publicly Funded and Private Schools in Toronto. I was invited to speak on the question, “How can we escape religious tension in education” I gave a 30 minute speech that made the point that we will never escape it. The tension will always be with us in education, which, by its very nature, is a value-laden, youth-shaping endeavor. It is true for OACS schools and true for all schools, including those in the public system. Ontario has developed policy that demonstrates active engagement and support for religious diversity in the public and separate school systems. But there is a lack of acknowledgement and educational support for the presence of religious diversity among Ontarians in independent school systems. I shared with the Symposium that OACS schools would welcome increased partnership and collaboration with the Ministry to “Reach every Student” as their tagline and mission statement encourage.
During lunch on the second day of the conference, I engaged in a spirited discussion on the general topic with several other attendees. Someone asked us, “What do you want from the government?” This was a serious question and he wanted to hear an answer from the private school reps around the table. There was a pause…
What do we want from the Ontario government and especially the Ministry of Education? What do you want for your local Christian school? What do I, as the Executive Director, hope for on behalf of the OACS school community? What does the Ministry of Education want from us?
Do we want money because the cost of tuition is always creeping higher? Do we want access to education websites that are currently unavailable to our teachers? Do we want a reduction in fees for high school inspections or EQAO testing materials? Do we want the Ministry to release the French grants that they have been withholding from so many of our small schools?
Our lunch table answer was only two words: Respect and Equity.
Respect – Without it, how can we even begin to have a conversation that works to resolve shared Ministry and Christian school problems?
Equity – Without it, how can we understand that the Ministry really respects our presence, our contribution and our identity?
This year, the OACS is revisiting our strategies for an improved relationship with the Ontario government and the Ministry of Education. We wish to converse with key leaders in the Ministry in order to share our story and insight so that together we can build a spirit of awareness and trust that will lead to respect and equitable treatment by both parties.
Do you have another word that we should have given in our answer?