martedì 29 novembre 2016


Virtues  in Catholic education

by Elizabeth Boddens Hosang, the Netherlands

Catholic education in the Netherlands has changed over the past years. This is due to changes in society and within the Church since the Second Vatican Council. Be that as it may, the Netherlands still has schools which choose to be Catholic, which search for ways in which students can be introduced to the Catholic Tradition and Gospel values. Dutch Catholic educational institutes are warm and nurturing centres where students of all ages feel welcomed.
 In such a safe setting students are able to develop personally. In the Netherlands, we have a system where Catholic identity advisors help primary schools to develop their own identity, within the broad Catholic tradition. These advisors develop materials necessary for religious education classes, provide schools with background information, but also aid in developing thoughts on Catholic identity for a mission statement, personnel development and the proper information for parents and others involved.
 Part of the Dutch Christian National Union (the CNV) is concerned with education and especially people working in education, both Christian and Protestant. The Union has a working group specifically geared towards Catholic education[1] , represented in the National Catholic Schools Council[2] and delegates members to the WUCT. The group has produced thoughts on the developments in Dutch Catholic education and materials for people working in Catholic schools.
All schoolsin the Netherlands have students from various religious and cultural backgrounds, so dialogue with and learning about different faiths is unavoidable. This can only be done within a safe environment and when one has a better understanding of one’s own faith background.  This is another focal point for identity advisors.
The bishops of the Netherlands have written a document on Catholic Education (‘Bezield en Zelfbewust’, 2002). In this document they have encouraged Catholic schools to be a nurturing and safe place where young people can develop every aspect of their being: a holistic approach. As the Dutch government made sex education mandatory for all primary schools, Catholic schools especially should emphasize that each individual is created in the image of God. Consequently, all aspects of a person’s sexuality – whether he/ she is hetero or homosexual, is the result of creation by a loving God. This should be treated with respect and care, without any implicit or explicit judgment.
A school is part of society and an open Catholic Church which engages in dialogue with society respects all people, despite their background and orientation.
Several years ago, the Catholic primary schools of the Foundation for Christian Education in Leiden, have spoken about the values and virtues they consider important with which to imbue the students. These are of course rooted in Scripture.[3]  The result is that when the mission statement on the identity of the Leiden Catholic primary schools was written, I translated this into practice, to avoid it remaining a statement on paper. 
The result is that the schools now have a virtues program with one virtueas focus for 6 weeks, stories from Scripture and from other traditions are told, discussions are held, and a poster and lessons are provided. At another moment in the week, teachers read from a children’s bible in order to familiarize students with the stories Jesus knew (: our ‘Old’ Testament) and the stories about and by Jesus and his followers (: our ‘New’ Testament).
There is a concern that when discussing values without connecting these to Tradition, the resulting mission statement may appear to be child-focussed and educationally sound, but shows no awareness of the educational institute’s foundation in the Christian tradition. Hence, the discussions of these particular schools were led by myself. As Catholic identity advisor, I always kept in mind the Christian background of these schools.

Dr. Elizabeth Boddens Hosang, the Netherlands

[1]CNV werkgroep KV.
[3] The values and virtues the teachers suggested are: respect, solidarity, trust, wonder, justice, tolerance, kindness, forgiveness, awe, optimism, care and joy.

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