On the 400th anniversary of the Jesuit document on education, the Ratio Studiorum, the International Commission on the Apostolate of Jesuit Education (ICAJE) published The Characteristics of Jesuit Education. I am publishing a simple outline of the 28 characteristics for all who are interested to know what makes an educational institution Jesuit in character. This document is intended to give a “common vision and a common sense of purpose; it can be a standard against which we measure ourselves” (Peter-Hans Kolvenbach SJ, Superior General, 8 Dec 1986).
I am publishing this specifically for our collaborators (students, faculty, staff, parents, alumni) of Ateneo de Manila High School. I have given this talk to class moderators as part of the over-all formation of the high school. However, this is dedicated to all those involved in Jesuit education and those who are interested to know our vision.
I do hope that each characteristic is not just read, but prayed and reflected on.
Below is the first ten characteristics.
1. Jesuit education is world-affirming. Jesuit education affirms the radical goodness of the world. It tries to create a sense of wonder and mystery in learning about God’s creation.
2. Jesuit education assists in the total formation of each individual within the community. Jesuit education probes the meaning of life. Its objective is to assist in the fullest possible development of all the God-given talents of each individual person as a member of the human community.
3. Jesuit education includes a religious dimension that permeates the entire education. Religious and spiritual formation is integral to Jesuit education. It is not added to, or separate from, the educational process. In all classes, in the climate of the school, and most especially in formal classes in religion, every attempt is made to present the possibility of a faith response to God as something truly human and not opposed to reason, as well as to develop those values which are able to resist the secularism of modern life.
4. Jesuit education is an apostolic instrument. Formation of the individual is not an abstract end; Jesuit education is also concerned with the ways in which students will make use of their formation within the human community, in the service of others.
5. Jesuit education promotes dialogue between faith and culture. Persons and cultural structures are human, imperfect, and sometimes affected by sin and in need of conversion. Being active in all creation and in all human history, God reveals Himself in various distinct cultural ways. Jesuit education encourages contact with and a genuine appreciation of all cultures, which include the sciences, in the hope that students will become creatively critical of the contributions and deficiencies of each.
6. Jesuit education insists on individual care and concern for each person. The curriculum is centred on the person rather than on the material to be covered. Growth in the responsible use of freedom is facilitated by the personal relationship between student and teacher. While respecting the privacy of students, teachers and administrators are ready to listen to their cares and concerns, to share with them life experiences, to help them with personal growth and interpersonal relationships.
7. Jesuit education emphasizes activity on the part of the student. The task of a teacher is to help each student to become an independent learner who is ready to assume the responsibility for his or her own education. Active participation on the part of the student is promoted by programmes which encourage personal study and reflection, and which provide opportunities for personal discovery and creativity.
8. Jesuit education encourages life-long openness to growth. Jesuit education tries to instill a joy in learning and a desire to learn that will remain beyond the days in school.
9. Jesuit education is value-oriented. Jesuit education includes formation in values, in attitudes and in an ability to evaluate criteria. Self discipline, manifested in intellectual rigour, persevering application to serious study, and responsible conduct towards others that recognizes the human dignity of each individual, is expected of each student. In a Jesuit school, a framework of inquiry in which a value system is acquired through a process of wrestling with competing points of view is legitimate.
10. Jesuit education encourages a realistic knowledge, love, and acceptance of self. While emphasizing the happiness in life resulting from a responsible use of freedom, Jesuit education recognizes the reality of sin and the consequent obstacles to freedom. Students are encouraged to discern and remove such obstacles to growth through an examination of personal prejudice and an evaluation of relative goods and competing values. They are helped to reflect on their own personal experiences, accept their own gifts, accept their own limitations and overcome these as far as possible.