There was much delight at the recent JCAP Education meeting in two significant developments.
Fr Christopher Gleeson SJ, JCAP Education Secretary and meeting chairman, shared that the group learnt a good deal from inaugural Principal, Fr Plinio, about the beginning in January of the new school in Timor-Leste, Colégio de Santo Inácio de Loiola.
“It is on the way to becoming a full year 7 to 12 secondary school – so necessary after many years of destructive colonial rule had left the education system in tatters,” he said, adding that Australia, Japan, and the Philippines have been generous providers of various resources for the educational project, which will begin its teacher education institute on the same site in 2014.
The other piece of good news was that, after a group led by Father Ashley Evans SJ had engaged in much discernment and consultation over a considerable time period, Father General has given approval for a Jesuit school and teacher training programme to be established in Cambodia. “This is wonderful news,” declared Fr Chris.
The eight Jesuit Education Secretaries of the Asia Pacific Conference had gathered in Manila from May 21 to 24 for their annual meeting. They are Fr Stephen Chow SJ (Chinese Province), Fr Tony Pabayo SJ (Philippines), Fr Ashley Evans SJ (Cambodia), Fr Sung Il Lee SJ (Japan), Fr Baskoro Poedjinoegroho SJ (Indonesia), Fr Rich McAuliff SJ (Micronesia), Fr Plinio Martins SJ (Timor-Leste) and Fr Christoper Gleeson SJ (Chair, Australia).
The core business of the meeting focused on what structures are needed for developing the Education secretariat and its services to Conference school communities and beyond.
In late October 2012, Fr Mark Raper SJ, President of JCAP, had written to the Australian Provincial, Fr Steve Curtin SJ, requesting the assistance of Fr Chris to develop the Conference education secretariat along the following lines: “The assignment proposed for Chris is not a full scale Secretary, but rather to take a couple of years, or less if he can do that, to set up this position and to recruit someone on a more permanent basis. We realize that it may be possible to engage a lay person for the role. But a lot more discussion within the network and scoping the possibilities should be undertaken first. The immediate position may not require a lot of travel. Rather it requires … a good core working group that will then develop a programme of action for the coming years.”
With these words ringing in our ears, the group began its discussion by trying to answer the following question: What are our JCAP schools’ most important needs, and how can a JCAP secretariat help to meet those needs? Some discussion starters offered by Fr Chris were:
- Is one of our top priorities to be professional development for our teachers, and is the Riverview Advanced Teacher Program the best way to achieve this? Where should we locate the Ignatian Pedagogical Paradigm in professional development?
- How can the Secretariat give impetus in our JCAP schools to the priorities asked of us by the Society and Conference leadership e.g. Reconciliation with Creation; Care for Refugees?
- What priority should we give to the development of strong Ignatian leaders in our staff? Aspiring school Principals? The formation of emerging lay leaders in our schools?
The group decided that leadership and staff formation should be our top focus, and considered two models of secretariat – one with a full time person as Director, and the other with Fr Chris remaining in charge, still part-time but working with the assistance of carefully organized teams to attain specific formation goals. The latter model seemed more realistic at this stage. To this end, the Philippines under Fr Tony was given the task of developing formation seminars for leaders across the Conference, while Australia led by Fr Chris took on responsibility for reviving the successful Advanced Teacher Programme and establishing a formation programme for aspiring leaders in the Conference. Indonesia, with Fr Baskoro at the helm, will attend to the formation of school coordinators in Reconciliation with Creation, complementing the “Healing Earth” work of Fr Pedro Walpole SJ, JCAP Coordinator for Reconciliation with Creation. Conscious that the secretariat needs to provide generous support to emerging schools in the Conference, the remaining secretaries will form a team with this mission as their responsibility.
Fr Chris reports that when Fr Mark joined them for the last session of the meeting, he challenged the group to explore how Jesuit and Ignatian schools can contribute to civil society and to the quality of education in the country. This is something that each Ignatian school must consider. In terms of the region, this, said Fr Chris, is something that a full-time secretariat would be better positioned to address – once the new formation team structures under the current part-time secretariat leadership are well established in a regular routine.