Saturday, 17 April 2021

Amoris Laetitia: the right of parents in educating their children

In speaking of parents' responsibilities with regard to the education of children, Amoris Laetitia n.85, referring to parents, reads in part: 

.... by their reception of the sacrament of marriage they become ministers of their children's education. In educating them, they build up the Church, and in so doing, they accept a God-given vocation.

 Whilst this paragraph presents the responsibility of parents in the education of their children in the realm of a religious office received in the grace of sacramental life, the preceding paragraph, n.84, argues for the same responsibility in a way that applies to all (though still with a reference to Canon Law):

... I feel it important to reiterate that the overall education of children is a "most serious duty" and at the same time a "primary right" of parents. This is not just a task or a burden, but an essential and inalienable right that parents are called to defend and of which no one may claim to deprive them.

What Pope Francis goes on to say about a correct understanding of the part played by the State in the provision of education equally applies to other contributors in the field of education, be they providers of schools themselves, providers of curriculum materials or providers of academic qualifications used in schools. 

The State offers educational programmes in a subsidiary way, supporting the parents in their indeclinable role; parents themselves enjoy the right to choose freely the kind of education - accessible and of good quality - which they wish to give their children in accordance with their convictions. Schools do not replace parents, but complement them. This is a basic principle: "all other participants in the process of education are only able to carry out their responsibilities in the name of the parents, with their consent and, to a certain degree, with their authorisation".

 Most fundamentally, in the context of the United Kingdom, with its well established state funding of primary and secondary schooling, Pope Francis' remarks have application to how the funding and regulation of education are understood. It is all too easy to feel that, because the school receives its funding from government, the government therefore has some kind of ownership of the educational work of the school. According to Pope Francis, that funding enables the school to play its subsidiary part in supporting parents in fulfilling their "primary right". And likewise, the regulation of the work of schools supports parents by trying to ensure that the education offered in the school is of sufficient quality that parents will be fulfilling their responsibility in entrusting their children to the care of the school.

If funding and regulation are used instead to enforce a uniformity of education in each and every school, the "primary right" of parents is undermined. A pluralism of school provision and of curriculum is essential to allowing parents to exercise their right with regard to the education of their children, and funding/regulation should not discriminate against, for example, schools with a religious designation which wish to adopt a curriculum consistent with that designation.

No comments: