As Christian parents endeavour to raise their children to know and love God the question of Christian education will likely arise. In 2019 nearly 4 million students attended just over 9500 schools in Australia. Government schools accounted for 65 per cent of all student enrolments, Catholic schools (20 per cent) and Independent schools (15 per cent) accounted for the remainder of enrolments.
There is a range of factors Christian parents will consider when making a choice regarding Christian education.
If living in a rural or regional area Christian parents may have to choose between sending their child to their preferred school or attending a school within their local community. This is a significant choice; parents need to consider how much daily travel is sustainable for their child versus the potential benefits offered by the school.
Commuting to school could limit a child’s ability to spend time with friends and thought needs to be given to the development of the whole child, both academically and socially. Some parents will find it a better overall choice to educate their child within their local community which fosters local relationships.
Private school fees vary wildly from low fee independent schools through to high fee exclusive schools. There is a general perception that the more money spent, the better the educational experience but it’s doubtful such a statement is always true.
Some parents believe in public education as a fair equitable way to educate everyone. Whilst this might be a nice ideal, I have a stronger overall concern for my education of my own children and in that light see the cost of private schooling as a worthwhile investment.
A private school has more tools in its arsenal to address poor classroom behaviour. The fact that a parent has paid fees for their child to attend a school suggests that parents will be eager to work with the school if their child’s behaviour is posing problems. Government schools have limited tools in this regard.
I worked as a teacher in a public high school and had many parents come to see me on parent-teacher night. Unfortunately, these were almost always parents of children who behaved themselves and worked hard. The parents of children who displayed poor classroom attitudes rarely showed up.
A lack of tools to adequately respond to poor classroom behaviour creates challenges for teachers in establishing a healthy learning environment. I often found myself spending more time managing classroom behaviour and less time educating as a result. Ultimately, private schools have more power over student enrolment enabling them to better set the learning environment they desire.
School vs Faith
When I attended a public primary school, I felt it was accommodating of my Christian faith. I had the opportunity to receive religious education classes and rarely did I experience a conflict between my school and my faith.
A generation later in sending my children to a public primary school I found conflict between the school’s worldview and my Christian faith more common.
This sometimes meant having talks with my daughters about what the school believes versus what we believe as Christians. Such conversations were good opportunities for my children to recognize that Christians have a different set of values and won’t always fit into mainstream thinking. I don’t expect public schools to share my faith, but I do hope my faith will be respected.
The challenge was that my community is so thoroughly post-Christian that sometimes the school would promote anti-Christian ideas without even thinking.
In high school, I attended Creek Street Christian College in Bendigo. At the time I didn’t realise how good I had it! Working as a teacher and seeing different schools has given me an appreciation for my own high school experience. So much so that this year I have enrolled my own children at Creek Street Christian College. I have come to think of Christian education as a greenhouse. A greenhouse provides the optimal environment for things to grow.
There are multiple factors Christian parents will consider when weighing the choice of sending their child to a government or independent school. A good decision for one parent might not be a good choice for another.
Having experienced Christian schooling as a student and now as a parent, I’m an advocate. From my perspective it doesn’t cost, it pays.
Travis Barnes lives in central Victoria with his wife and two daughters. He is a contributor for Christian Today and a sportswriter.