The Jesuit Educational Association (legal title: Jesuit Conference of India-Educational Section) was constituted in 1961 with the aim of providing Jesuits with a forum of reflection on the educational apostolate of the Society in the context of changing conditions in South Asia. All Jesuit educational institutions in South Asia are members of the JEA. The secretariat, assisted especially by the Province/Region Coordinators of Education, seeks to animate Jesuit educational institutions to a deeper understanding of the Jesuit vision in Education especially through the implementation of the Characteristics of Jesuit Education and Ignatian Pedagogy. This entails enabling the institutions to be rooted in the local context, to network with like-minded institutions and be instruments of social change. Every year the province/region coordinators, who form together the statutory 'JEA National Committee', meet with the secretary to review this apostolate and plan for the future. The JEA Secretary is ex-officio the National Coordinator of the Federation of Jesuit Alumni Associations of South Asia.
Jesuit Education draws its inspiration from the life of Ignatius, the Constitutions of the Society and the best practices in vogue at that time. These last mentioned were put together in what is known as The Ratio Studiorum of 1599. The Ratio gives Jesuit schools a vision and a system that bound them together into a unity and infused a sense of purpose in what was being done in Jesuit schools all over the world. It earned the Jesuits the nickname, 'the great schoolmasters of Europe'. As a system it was in use for two centuries, but its influence was felt for five hundred years.
Due to increased governmental involvement in education, it has become impossible to have one common system for Jesuit schools all over the world. However, a strong need was felt all over the Society to have a common vision in spite of local differences in the way education may be imparted. Accordingly in 1986 December, Fr. General, Peter Hans Kolvenhach, promulgated The Characteristics of Jesuit Education. It was meant to do for our times what the Ratio did in the 16th and 17th centuries, namely, give a vision and mission to Jesuit Education. There are 8 major characteristics that define Jesuit education: PERSON-ORIENTED, INTEGRAL, VALUE-BASED, PURSUING EXCELLENCE, ADAPTING FOR RELEVANCE, TOWARDS A JUST SOCIETY, PARTICIPATIVE, FAITH-INSPIRED. But vision and mission alone are not enough. The teacher wanted the wherewithal to make the Characteristics come alive in the classroom and in the daily life of the school. Accordingly, in 1993, the International Commission for the Apostolate of Jesuit Education prepared what is called The Ignatian Pedagogy Process (I.P.P.). It is meant to introduce into the classroom and school life an Ignatian Way of Teaching and Administering. The I.P.P. draws its inspiration from the dynamics of the Spiritual Exercises and has 5 important elements: CONTEXT, EXPERIENCE, REFLECTION, ACTION AND EVALUATION. These are now applied to the ministry of teaching and learning.
What and How of Jesuit Education
It is always a joy for me to delve into the wealth of information which the Jesuits have given the world over the last four and a half centuries. In 1980 through Ignatian Pedagoical Paradigm (IPP), the Society took a general approach to deal with education and the students we are to educate. In the recently concluded SIPEI International Seminar at Spain (November 2-12, 2014), we got into the basics of Jesuit education, that is, the specifics and how to apply them in our schools to achieve our aim of making students persons of Conscience, persons of Competence, Persons of Compassion and persons of Commitment. Towards this we must look to the great masters of Europe, the Jesuit educators, who have preceded us, handing down to us their wisdom and experience. Amazingly, they have written on almost everything: on any topic one can imagine dealing with education.
When we study the past 450 years in which Jesuits have been engaged in education, it is clear that Jesuits have been in the fore front, a fact universally admitted by friends and foes alike. The Jesuits were accused of being witches and magicians —because of the fact the Jesuits were doing something incredible, that they were teaching, educating, leading and influencing society through their universally spread out educational institutions.
And what happened very quickly, even in the lifetime of St. Ignatius, was his realization that the way to defend the Faith is through education. Then on there is an organic development of the necessity of our involvement in education. So at this point in history and in the history of the Society we need, then, to become very serious about education and properly dealing with our schools.
St. Ignatius was a man of discernment. He realizes that God disposes for him to get into education, he goes for it, and then we have this great educational system of the Jesuits. Before actually getting into the objective means and aims of the Jesuit methodology, we first need to briefly become acquainted with the Ratio Studiorum, the Jesuit manual of education. The landmark achievement of the Jesuits was to give order, hierarchy, structure, unity, and methodology to education. This is their great legacy, and learning from it is something extremely beneficial to us in the field of education.
They began founding colleges, even a college in India, in Goa; St. Francis Xavier began putting people into that college and trained Jesuits to begin teaching. St. Francis Borgia did likewise in Spain. Then in 1551, St. Ignatius decided to found the Roman College. Once decided, he determined that it would be the very best in the world, a model of all models. He spared no effort, nor expense to make it the greatest of all universities of his day. This was the mind-set of St. Ignatius of which, depending on our own individual character, we must share. We are called to do our best for the world. Magis (more committed work) is our mantra! This document was fundamental in giving structure to the Jesuits and making their educational system, possibly the greatest in the history of the world. Its colleges, universities, and high schools spread throughout the world, almost in every country of the world.
I think that is very important to keep in mind that while the Jesuits had the Ratio Studiorum they were not slaves to it. They were lovers of the principles enshrined the Ratio, not slaves to its letter. In other words, they knew the principles and prudently applied them in the specific situation. I think we need to keep this in mind when we look at our schools and education today, because our Society has the great opportunity and ability not to be shackled to a certain way of doing things, when it comes to education. Certainly, there will be underlying perennial principles in all of our systems, but also particular means of approach, methodology, class structure, curriculum, etc., that we can adapt and use ourselves.
Aim of Jesuit Education
Why did the Jesuits become involved with education? This question is easily answered by answering the question underlying both, "Why does any order of the Catholic Church exist?" This is what St. Ignatius write in the Institutions: “The end of the Society is not only to care for the salvation and perfection of their own souls with divine grace, but with the same [divine grace] seriously to devote themselves to the salvation and perfection of their neighbors. For it was especially instituted for the defense and propagation of the Faith, and the progress of souls in Christian life and doctrine”.
Man is not merely a citizen of this or that country; he is born to be a citizen of heaven. Therefore, in all truth, we can say that the purpose of education is a preparation for life, proximately this life, but ultimately everlasting life. That is why the Jesuits educate. And we’re here to learn the principles necessary to fulfill that end. The glory of our specific vocation as educators is just that; we have the opportunity to form young souls. That is something that principals and teachers need to meditate on constantly; it should be their daily concern.
Therefore, we are not talking about mere intellectualism. Education is not just intellectual formation nor instruction; it is the formation of the whole man. We must make sure that our faculties with the right kind of teacher, not just someone who knows math or history, but a man/ woman in the state of grace and striving for sanctity so that religion permeates his class, whatever the subject.
Importance of Teachers
Critical to the Jesuits and to any good school is formation of teachers and their skillful teaching. The teacher is the heart of the educational process. The teachers are the ones with their hands on the clay doing the regular immediate formation. That’s why a bad teacher lacking in either discipline or knowledge causes disasters, the worst being to extinguish the desire of students to learn and to love learning. Be vigilant! Boring teachers, unprepared teachers, indifferent teachers, teachers who only work for money —these are the destruction of a school, and not just the destruction of a school, but the destruction of souls entrusted to our care. We can’t do that! Any talk of establishing schools means necessarily we talk about making sure we have properly trained teachers teaching our children.
In the book, Teacher and Teaching, by Fr. Richard Tierney, S.J. says: “True education is generally the work of skillful teachers. Since the former is a pearl without price [true education], the value of the latter can scarcely be overestimated. Teaching is the art of the interesting, the inspiring”. (p.27).
A genuine teacher moves students to action, both intellectual and physical. To have such teachers is the first means of securing a good education for a student. As the famous saying goes, "Many teach, but few inspire." One cannot possibly exaggerate the need to have good inspiring teachers. We may suffer various monetary constraints which disallow us from compensating a teacher in proportion to his worth, but I would say, now is the time to make every possible sacrifice to pay our teachers well and attract qualified individuals to our schools.
Let us not forget the need of adequate training. We must monitor and nurture the teachers we have. Out teachers must desire our monitoring and nurturing. One way to help their development is by giving them in-training programmes. Evaluation and appraisal must be offered on a continual basis throughout the school year. Even the best teacher still needs to develop, to improve; that we provide the means for this is a major part of our administrative role as a true headmaster/principal.
A good education will be determined by the quality of the curriculum. The first guiding principle is that the curriculum achieve formation, not just information. However, we must be sure not to swing to the other extreme, that is, factual information is unimportant. Though it is not the main thing, not the formal cause, it is still the material of education. We need to know facts and dates, theories and formulas and historical circumstances —these things make up the matter of education. They are not the end, but they are means to the end.
Mere accumulation of information will not make a person integrated and wise. The methodology of Jesuit education was to form a man to train him to think. One of our biggest challenges is to train a young man to think, to analyze. This incapacity to think will be overcome by forming the intellectual and moral habits of a person, helping the student to penetrate into the reality of things rather than merely filling his mind with only of facts as coaching centers in our country do.
The second principle regarding curriculum is that its study is to be intensive rather than extensive. We want to form, not simply inform.
Importance of Humanities and Science
For the high school level, the Jesuits considered the humanities —literature, language, and history —along with science, to be important subjects to be taught. The emphasis on these subjects, without absolutely excluding others, of course, contributed to the balanced formation of the human being, making him a fit receptacle for the grace of God. The humanities offer abiding and universal values for human formation. By utilizing these perennial works, the Jesuits formed the soul by noble deeds and great acts; inspired their students and provided a vision for the young mind. These are abiding concepts in education and why it is so necessary to base our schools upon them.
Role of teachers and students in a classroom
The Jesuits call their teaching methodology "the mastery formula." It contains two steps. The first is self- activity —ut excitetur ingenium —in other words, getting the student to think. On the part of the student, active participation in the classroom is critical. The teachers are not there anymore just to inform, to give grand speeches and sermons. They are there to make them think and help them learn and that means getting them to do it on their own. That’s education. The child might fall, but gets back up. Mastery of the subject and well-prepared classes are fundamental in this area, but so is making the classes interesting. The best way to kill everything is to be up there boring the class with monotonous recitation or unprepared, unimaginative lessons. Perhaps we all know what that does to us; some of us have had those teachers in the past! That is why teaching is often called the "art of the interesting."
Along or amidst this intellectual teaching- learning atmosphere in the class room there is another important element has to be looked into. That is formation of moral values. It is more challenging but absolute necessary for education. Today all the more it is vital in our schools that we stress on moral values and discipline as we stress on academic excellence.
A wide range of extra-curricular activities are part of Jesuit education. Things like club activities were very important in the Jesuit system. One-Act plays, classical plays, music, dance, games, art and what not….everything complements intellectual learning. Physical education also has an important role in the development of our students. Remember always virtue stands in the middle.
Cura Personalis (Care of the person) and Discipline
In a Jesuit school teachers are more concerned with the formation of the total person, not the intellect alone. Maintaining close relationships is a means of inspiring the students, of forming high ideals, of teaching by example in both the spiritual and in the intellectual orders....What part is the teacher to play in forming the pupil’s character? In general, he must both inculcate principles and foster the formation of habit. Each student must be known intimately and trained individually. If you don’t know someone, you can’t affect them or properly direct them to a goal. Throughout their history, that’s the way the Jesuits motivated their students.
We do have the opportunity to use what has been proven the most effective way in the approaches for education. As teachers in Jesuit schools we’ve inherited the noble task of education, so we have the duty to apply the perennial principles of education. We must continue to devote ourselves to the study of education: its history, methods, and the proper formation of character....This is our duty. Entrusted to our care are the future citizens of the eternal kingdom. And we must spare no expense, nor labour, nor effort or energy, to form them as the eternal Creator wants them to be.
Sunny Jacob S.J.