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“Faith Schools” for Ukraine

July 4, 2015

There are controversial issues that may surround “faith schools”, particularly those that are aggressively selective in their catchment. supported, funded and governed by parents that take being a zealot to the extreme, and thus provide a child with a home and school life that ill-prepares them to meet the society within which they live once a working life presents itself within a diverse and liberal workforce.

However, regardless of potential long-term issues, President Poroshenko has signed into law Bill 498 VIII which are amendments to various laws, thus now allowing the establishment of educational institutions by religious organisations.

The presidential website reads “According to this law, religious organizations registered according to the law can be the founders (owners) of vocational, secondary and pre-school education establishments. The changes also apply to out-of-school educational institutions, in which the activities of religious organizations are allowed under the condition that they are the founders of such kindergartens.”

It also makes clear that the law provides the constitutional right of religious parents or persons in loco parentis to the education of children in conformity with their own religious beliefs.

Whether President Poroshenko is aware or not, he has simply made de jure that which de facto exists.  Religiously orientated educational establishments already exist in Ukraine.  In Odessa to select one example of many, School 94 at 60 Marlazlievskaya, is, and has always been, exclusively Jewish in its student body.  School meals are kosher.

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Fortunately it is not an Ultra-Orthodox Jewish school that strictly adheres to the codes of Torah observance, whereby all would live a modest life – which can mean no television, Internet or media and thus more or less segregation from life outside Judaism.

What expectant joy – not – as a Catholic, when reveling in the thought of a hardcore Catholic school coming into being that would be little more than an apostolic mission of the Holy See where the teachings of Christ (according to catholicism) would permeate all areas of a child’s education.

Islamic schools naturally would have the same biases to the Koran as those exclusively for Jewish to the Torah, or Catholic schools to the Catholic Bible.

There is then the Russian Orthodoxy, Ukrainian Orthodoxy and Greek Orthodoxy.

How many US Presbyterian, Mormon, Later Day Saints, (whatever) missionaries, missions and schools will suddenly spring up from nowhere across Ukraine?

Lutheran educational facilities too?  Hindu or Sheik?

The policy questions relate to how much Ukrainian education can – or should – be outsourced (and struck from the government balance sheet) to the privately funded religious sector?

Should there be a State imposed quota in all “faith schools” for pupils not of that faith to insure a mainstream education?

Has there been any attempt at impact analysis in other nations where “faith schools” have been adopted into the education system, prior to passing this Bill into law?

How will the State insure that any “faith school” will not simply provide a student a lifetime of religiously biased education, producing a student fully equipped for a lifetime of religious segregation but absolutely no/limited familiarity with modern Ukrainian life or society?

How will the Ukrainian State reconcile a pious religious school (chose your faith) that will refute any form of acceptance or tolerance toward homosexuality, pre-marital sex, or abortion, with ratified State obligations to human rights, and the democratic demands of tolerance and inclusiveness?

Can Ukraine, as corrupt as the education system truly is, insure that a well-rounded national curriculum is going to be taught, more or less bias free in a “faith school”?  For the foreseeable future, the buying of qualifications will still be possible, so it will surely be possible to bribe any education inspector to give a school outstanding educational write-ups long into the future – even if its teaching warps, manipulates and undermines the national curriculum – not withstanding the minds of its students.

A broad and balanced curriculum is somewhat essential in preparing the youth for adult life in what the current elite proclaim will become a deeply integrated nation with Europe.

It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” – Aristotle

A broad and balanced curriculum should therefore challenge the beliefs behind a “faith school”, rather than conveniently insulating it and its students from any such challenge – for an educated mind to entertain a thought, even if not accepting it, it must first be allowed to entertain the thought.

Will the “faith schools” be allowed to narrow the curriculum to avoid generally accepted truths that clash with the relevant faith?  Will “creationalists” be allowed to do away with, or pervert/manipulate, parts of the national curriculum to fit their beliefs for example?

Perhaps your author is writing nothing short of heresy in questioning whether impact analysis was done prior to signing this law into being, or whether any thought of how policing the national curriculum will be done when it comes into friction with certain beliefs or overly pious religious interpretations in “faith schools” around Ukraine.

All of that said, your author has nothing against “faith schools” per se (unless they are extreme in their religious fervor)  – however the future of Ukraine will be found in a genuine democracy and is therefore by nature tolerant and inclusive.  A democratic Ukraine is thus by default somewhat more liberal than any collective “faith” parts, and certainly more liberal than that which may be taught in a school where any overly zealous parent chooses “the education of children in conformity with their own religious beliefs” in an institution that has been created and is funded by the overly zealous.

The questions here are not about the rights or wrongs of “faith schools”, but relate to the Ukrainian State and its ability to insure a general education that meets the requirements of both students, national interests and an inclusive and tolerant society in the decades ahead.  It is yet to deal with the issues it has within its existing educational institutions after all.

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