Although religion is rarely the primary reason for a parent’s choice of school (other factors include discipline, educational quality, and the school’s capacity to develop their child’s potential) nevertheless many are willing to send their children to schools where they will be exposed to Christian values.
Despite the delight Christians find in this trend, it is not surprising there are many who distrust the rise. They have concerns over the impact of the segregation of students into religiously homogeneous schools and claim Christian schools undermine social cohesion, breed intolerance and stifle diversity.
However, Jennifer Buckingham in The Rise of Religious Schools finds that students “who attended non-government schools actually have higher rates of civic participation” and that “there is no evidence that the increase in the number of enrolments and religious schools has exacerbated social tensions or created a sectarian divide. On the contrary, it can be argued that religious schools circumvent conflict by allowing free expression of different values and beliefs.”*
The rise of Christian Schools defies the general consensus that the church has little or no place in Australian society. In their A Snapshot of Schools in Australia 2013 McCrindle research concludes that “Australians value choice, and today’s parents are prepared to pay for an education if they feel it will align more closely with their values, expectations, and aspirations.”
Actions speak louder than words. Despite what might be said in the media, Australian parents are willing to carry a financial burden in order to send their children to schools that expound and exemplify ethical values and good behaviour. One could argue that many Christian values are still important to many Australian parents.
Despite the fact Australians may sing the popular REM song, “Losing my Religion”, and despite the many challenges the church faces in Australia, there remains a thread in stories such as this one that show us God is still at work. It may not be in areas we are accustomed to, but nevertheless we have cause for hope.
What is more, despite the widely held belief that Christianity is on the wane, here we have evidence there remains within the Australian community an openness to the spiritual and to the Jesus story.
We can take heart, God is at work in our community. Let’s be open so we can see where that is and celebrate.
Stephen L Baxter