The Relevance of Catholic Education in the 21st Century: opportunities and openings for Catholic schools
We were privileged to attend the first annual conference of the Network for Researchers in Catholic education at Heythrop College on 19th September. The theme of the conference was developing research in Catholic education and brought together key academic researchers in the world of Catholic education.
The first keynote speaker was Dr Ann Casson, Senior Research Fellow at the National Institute for Christian Education Research based at Canterbury Christ Church University. Ann spoke about her research in Catholic education as the bringing together of fragments to create a collage in which different patterns emerge. The part I found most compelling was when she spoke about researching the spiritual dimension in Catholic schools and how research of this nature can bring the sometimes unheard voices of the students to the fore. When she spoke about the students’ own interpretation of their religious identity and spiritual development, it resonated deeply with me and the work we are doing researching Gen Z. The students viewed their spiritual development in different ways:
- As development of themselves
- As being recognised as an individual
- As being part of a community and having a connection with others
- As allowing them to have a deeper knowledge and understanding of themselves
- As part of exploring their relationship with God (even if that meant they didn’t believe in the existence of God)
- Allowing and encouraging the presence of prayer in school
Ann stressed that young people are thoughtful and need to be listened to.
We were honoured to be asked to present a paper on the market research that we undertake with Catholic schools. We covered the types of briefs we receive from schools and the specific challenges they face. We outlined the research methodologies we use in response to these challenges and gave an overview of the key findings we have uncovered in over a decade of working closely with Catholic schools. These findings form the basis of an exciting future narrative for Catholic education.
The caring ethos of Catholic schools fits perfectly with today’s society in which there is an appetite for children to be socially aware and involved in charitable activities. Catholic schools have always at the forefront of charitable activity and understanding the needs of others, looking beyond their own community to help others.
Our presentation was followed by a lively Q&A session. The relevance of Catholic education in 21st century is clearly an engaging topic.