Pope Francis has spoken out against selection in Catholic schools. He called on Catholic educators to overcome a tendency towards being too selective during a Vatican conference on Christian education.
The Pope said they must work to restore the broken “educational alliance” between families, schools and society. Currently there was a serious situation with a desire to only educate “supermen”, selected on the basis of intelligence or wealth, he added.
“This is a shameful global reality,” Pope Francis said in comments reported by the Catholic News Service. “It is a reality that leads us towards a human selectivity that, instead of bringing people together, it distances them; it distances the rich from the poor; it distances one culture from another.”
“There is always the ghost of money – always. It seems that only those people or persons who are at a certain level or have a certain capacity have the right to an education,” the former teacher said.
He also restated his concerns about low teacher pay stating that educators were “among the worst-paid workers”. He concluded that this meant that “the state simply has no interest.” “If it did, things wouldn’t go that way,” Pope Francis said. “The educational alliance is broken. And this is our job, to find new paths.”
Paul Barber, director of the Catholic Education Service in England and Wales, said: “The Holy Father is absolutely right in his call for prioritising education for poor and disadvantaged children.
“All Catholic schools have a preferential option for the poor – this why our schools have more than the national average of pupils from the most disadvantaged backgrounds.”
In England, one of the country’s oldest state funded Catholic schools has recently been at the centre of a controversy over alleged back-door selection.
The London Oratory School, attended by former prime minister Tony Blair’s children, was ordered to change its admission policy last year after the Office of the Schools Adjudicator (OSA) concluded that the school’s policies had the effect of “discriminating against pupils on their ethnicity and socio-economic background”.
But in April, the school won a legal challenge against the OSA’s findings that its admissions criteria unfairly disadvantaged poorer children. Following a hearing, Mr Justice Cobb announced his decision to quash some of the decisions but upheld others.
The High Court judge agreed with the OSA that it was not permissable to include “Catholic service” as one of the oversubscription criteria. This could include singing in the choir, flower arranging or carrying out voluntary work.
Earlier this year, his Holiness spoke out against poor wages being given to those in the education profession, saying computers can teach content but it takes a good teacher to instill values and hope in young people today and create harmony in society.
“Teaching is a beautiful profession, … it’s a pity teachers are badly paid…because it is not just about the time they spend in school, but the time they spend in preparation, the time they spend on each individual student”.
The Pope referred to his own country, where many teachers have to work double shifts “just to be able to earn a decent wage”.
Instead the teaching profession is a great responsibility, he said, likening it to being spiritual parents for students, particularly the most difficult students who can often try a teachers patience.
In a society that struggles to find points of reference, the Pope continued young people need a positive reference point in their school.
But, the school can become this only “if it has teachers capable of giving meaning to the school, to study and culture, without reducing everything to the mere transmission of technical knowledge”.
“You must not teach just content, but the values and customs of life. A computer can teach content. Instead there are three things that you must transmit: how to love, how to understand which values and customs create harmony in society. For that we need good teachers!!”
Teachers, he concluded “must aim to build an educational relationship with each student, who must feel welcomed and loved for what he or she is, with all of their limitations and potential. In this direction, your task is now more necessary than ever”.