Publication Date

2006

Abstract

In many Australian Catholic schools, students who are not Catholics are increasingly seeking enrolment. While such students have always been present in Catholic schools their numbers have increased in recent years (Welboume, 2001). In NSW Catholic schools, for instance, the number of these students has doubled in percentage terms in the past 15 years to around five percent of the total student population, while the total increase in students has been marginal (NSWCEC, 2003). The growing presence of students who are not Catholics in Catholic schools raises "questions about the changing nature and purpose of the Catholic school as a context for religious education" (Welboume, 2003, p. 1). These questions focus on the nature and purpose of the classroom religion program and the evangelical and catechetical possibilities that form part of the Catholic school's pastoral mission.

This article presents the results of an analysis of extracts from official Catholic church documents on education and catechesis concerning the enrolment in Catholic schools of students who are not Catholics. Membership Categorisation Analysis is the tool of analysis used to review these documents. The discussion of results and findings provides directions for further research as well as questions for reflection for school administrators and religious educators.

The Church documents selected for study here are those deemed influential on the theory and practice of Catholic schools. Free body (2003, p. 179) argues that understanding how texts operate is critical for educators because: contemporary educational practice is saturated by texts; public educational arrangements are defined and regulated by texts; and, public educational activities are challenged, changed and legitimated by texts. Freebody's second point, "public educational arrangements are defined and regulated by texts", is central to this study. For religious educators and leaders in Catholic schools, the official church documents on education and catechesis define and regulate practices in Catholic schools.

This article poses two main questions for these official documents. First, how do church officials regard the presence in Catholic schools of students who are not Catholics? This question seeks to judge the extent to which these students are welcome in Catholic schools. Second, what is the place of these students in Catholic schools? This question examines what is expected of these students when they attend a Catholic school.

School/Institute

School of Education

Document Type

Open Access Journal Article

Access Rights

Open Access

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