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Study explores current Christian education landscape

Written on December 16th, 2009

Research to contribute to strengthening the sector for the future

A major study is exploring the landscape of Christian education today, seeking to answer questions about academic and spiritual outcomes, cultural influence, and teaching pedagogy within kindergarten to Grade 12 Christian education.

“We are hoping to discover how religious schools are different, and the reasons for those differences,” says David Sikkink, professor of sociology at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana and the lead on a component of the study.

“We hope that we will be able to provide the first in-depth and representative portrait of the religious school sector in North America.”

Sikkink notes the hope is also that the Cardus Education Survey, will provide “the most complete portrait of religious school grads, what they are doing in their lives today, and how that is influenced by their religious school background.”

In addition to understanding the current terrain of Christian education, a related objective is to contribute to a discussion around moving the sector into the future.

“The second phase will be looking forward and helping to shape what Christian education might be if it’s going to be strengthened in the 21st century,” says Deani Van Pelt, education professor at Redeemer University College in Ontario, and also a lead on the study.

Van Pelt notes the hope of the research group is that the work will not stay at the theoretical level, but will truly inform Christian education on the ground across the continent.

The research includes a quantitative study focusing on Christian school alumni as well as a series of smaller research studies targeting a variety of topics.

One of the areas of research, headed up by Harro Van Brummelen, professor of education at Trinity Western University in British Columbia, is the level of cultural engagement within Christian schools.

Van Brummelen refers to a recent survey which showed Canadian teens in Christian schools follow the news much less than Canadian teens in general, even while they see more need to care for other countries.

“This does lead to the question of whether and to what extent Catholic and Protestant Christian schools make their students aware of social and cultural issues, and how they define cultural engagement,” says Van Brummelen.

This study area will include determining whether Grade 12 Christian school students have goals for making a difference in society.

Another hope is to share some promising practices around cultural engagement that emerge from the research, says Van Brummelen.

The Cardus Education Survey, which is slated for release in the fall of 2010, is headed up by Cardus, a Canadian think tank, which has secured funding from a number of North American foundations.

The study’s operational working group includes Van Pelt, Sikkink, as well as Cardus director of research Ray Pennings and cultural renewal analyst John Seel.

For more information about the study please visit this link. www.cardus.ca.