True education means more than the pursuit of a certain course of study. It means more than a preparation for the life that now is. It has to do with the whole being, and with the whole period of existence possible to man. It is the harmonious development of the physical, the mental, and the spiritual powers. It prepares the student for the joy of service in this world and for the higher joy of wider service in the world to come. Ellen White, Education, p.14
While serving as a regional education director, looking after some 200 schools and 18,000 students, I took a group of Mission Education Directors to see the special character of Adventist education in action. One of the reasons that the character is so strong in New Zealand is that Adventist schools there are totally integrated into the government financial support system. These schools receive support only if they can demonstrate that they have something distinctly different to justify their existence separate from the state education system.
We saw the special character of Adventist education in action in a variety of New Zealand schools that was both inspiring and tangible. We watched teachers and felt the very heart of Adventism on open display in classroom displays and in teacher demeanour. The teachers were caring and passionate about their students, and were professional and Christian in their classrooms.
What became evident is that special character is not a product but a process. It requires a school team to work at it together to make it uniquely theirs. The importance of teacher-student interaction and how teachers model Christianity is critical. Adventist teachers see teaching as a ministry. They are dedicated and committed and live their Christianity.
Seventh-day Adventist education seeks to give every student the opportunity to accept Jesus Christ as their personal Saviour and to realise their inestimable value as a child of God. It is recognised that Adventist education will cost each family a considerable amount. However, as my wife and I have put our three children through elementary, secondary and tertiary Adventist education, we have regarded it as an investment in their eternal future.
By the end of our tour, it was not the technology use or visual displays that made the difference. It was actually feeling the presence of God in the schools. As we left each school, another facet of Adventist education had been embedded in our minds. Each school focused on character, and although all were unique in their approach the sum of the parts presented a cohesive, powerful picture.
Adventist education can be a powerful combination with a Christian family and an active church, working together to nurture and strengthen your child as they personalise their faith. You should be able to sense the overt focus of Christianity that unapologetically provides direction to the school. While it is not a fool-proof guarantee, Christian education increases the probability that students will choose to follow Christ – as Ruth stated so powerfully, “Your God will become my God” (Ruth 1:16).
So what makes Adventist education special? How does one justify the investment in this brand of parochial education? I guess the question could be turned around. Can you afford not to invest in the eternal welfare of your child? When Jesus comes and asks “Where is the flock that I gave you?”(Jeremiah 13:20), will you have prioritised the character development and spiritual nurture of your child?
This article is the first in a series of ten articles on the unique characteristics of Adventist education. Another article in the series will be published every other Friday.
- Source and Aim of True Education, Ellen G White
- Christian Schools – A World of Difference, Don C Roy
- Why Have Adventist Education? George Knight
- Adventist Education Refocuses on Mission, Larry Blackmer
- The Ideal Adventist College Graduate, AACU 2008
Note: Article written and posted in Australian English.