Navigating the dilemma of school choice: Why Christian schools stand out

School choice can be a dilemma for many parents. Education standards seem to fall continually, and the moral compass that schools used to possess has largely evaporated.

For many parents, the refuge against this slide can be found in faith schools, particularly Christian education establishments. High standards, a commitment to faith, and transparency often set these schools above their secular cousins. But can those without a deep commitment to the Christian faith still benefit? 

While being a church member of the particular school you would like to enroll your child in is beneficial, many Christian schools offer places to those who express a freedom of conscience.

However, this is usually a two-way compromise and requires a commitment to you and your child accepting the education founded in that denomination’s teaching. 

Which church denomination (or non-denomination)?

Depending on the church school in question, there may be religious requirements for your entry. For example, with some Catholic schools, they require you to be a baptized Catholic and your family regular church attendees in the diocese or parish where the school is situated.

If you belong to a particular church, then this is not necessarily a bad thing. With Christian schools generally outperforming their secular establishment’s counterparts, demand for places is often oversubscribed. It therefore makes sense for them to filter by a commitment to faith.

Freedom of conscience admission

Increasingly, it is not always the case that a Christian school will only accept those of the school’s faith as students. Many can allow students of different denominations, even different beliefs. While the majority of students will be of the school’s denomination or non-denomination, the open door attitude, in effect, allows the freedom of conscience of a student.

Parents have different criteria for the choice of their children’s schools. Commitment to faith might be high on the list for some religious parents, but for others, academic rigor, extracurricular activities, and overall culture, all of which most Christian schools excel at, will take precedence.

To gain entry and be able to leverage the considerable benefits that a Christian education can bring, the parents have to accept that their child will be subject to the same religious teaching of that particular denomination or non-denominations.  

Why do Christian schools allow open enrollment?

The one thing it is not about is declining numbers, it is usually generally the contrary because of the exceptional results that these schools achieve, be it in the academic sphere or in sport.

While it is usually true that if the school is oversubscribed for places, those from the denomination or non-denominational church that runs the school will have preference, they still try to ensure that there is some intake from outside. 

Two reasons account for this stance. Firstly, scripture encourages it, and secondly, it allows the children to experience other viewpoints.

Scripture can encourage openness

Christianity, irrespective of denomination or non-denominational, is built on Christ’s message delivered through the Bible. Within these teachings are universal truths accepted by all Christians, irrespective of affiliation. 

In essence, Christian teaching is all about inclusiveness. The scripture tells us not only should “we love thy neighbor” but that as disciples of Christ, we should go out and teach and spread his word. 

This ethos is reflected perfectly in the idea that Christian teaching should be open and welcoming to all. 

Opening children up to other views and cultures

Ideas that cannot stand the rigors of question will never survive the test of time. Christianity is built on its ability to be constantly questioned yet always be able to respond positively.

By allowing there to be pupils who have a freedom of conscience, it ensures that none of the pupils will not exist in a closed-thinking environment. Whether they are from the church or not, all pupils will experience and come into contact with viewpoints at variance to their beliefs. 

This exchange can provide an essential grounding in handling and dealing with those who might express different ideologies or opinions from those you have been brought up with, something that will happen almost daily in adult life. Being prepared and having your own views challenged can help strengthen your faith and create a culture of respect.

Schools need the right fit too

Of course, the culture of respect has to operate both ways. Christian schools, while open to fair debate, understandably will not be able to tolerate those who look to wreck. 

Most Christian schools will expect you to commit to a statement of faith that allows them to teach your child in the same manner as all other students. Usually non-negotiable, it creates an equality of learning.

Being a Christian should mean this is not problematic. If you are from another faith or atheist, you must understand that excellence in education is built from this foundation of faith. 

Parents want to send their children to the best schools

Sending their children to the best schools is what all parents want. In the modern school system, these often are church schools. The majority of Christian schools offer some form of open entry, allowing entry for any faith or from any Christian background, even atheists. 

They do this because the foundation of Christianity is inclusiveness and the idea of spreading God’s word and Christian beliefs through the process of teaching. 

While the schools make compromises, they also expect parents and children from outside the denomination or non-denomination to act in good faith and accept a level of religious teaching for their offspring.