Education is too selective and elitist, the Pope warns

Pope Francis has spoken out against selection in Catholic schools. He called on Catholic educators to overcome a tendency towards being too selective during a Vatican conference on Christian education.

The Pope said they must work to restore the broken “educational alliance” between families, schools and society. Currently there was a serious situation with a desire to only educate “supermen”, selected on the basis of intelligence or wealth, he added.

“This is a shameful global reality,” Pope Francis said in comments reported by the Catholic News Service. “It is a reality that leads us towards a human selectivity that, instead of bringing people together, it distances them; it distances the rich from the poor; it distances one culture from another.”

“There is always the ghost of money – always. It seems that only those people or persons who are at a certain level or have a certain capacity have the right to an education,” the former teacher said.

He also restated his concerns about low teacher pay stating that educators were “among the worst-paid workers”. He concluded that this meant that “the state simply has no interest.” “If it did, things wouldn’t go that way,” Pope Francis said. “The educational alliance is broken. And this is our job, to find new paths.”

Paul Barber, director of the Catholic Education Service in England and Wales, said: “The Holy Father is absolutely right in his call for prioritising education for poor and disadvantaged children.

“All Catholic schools have a preferential option for the poor – this why our schools have more than the national average of pupils from the most disadvantaged backgrounds.”

In England, one of the country’s oldest state funded Catholic schools has recently been at the centre of a controversy over alleged back-door selection.

The London Oratory School, attended by former prime minister Tony Blair’s children, was ordered to change its admission policy last year after the Office of the Schools Adjudicator (OSA) concluded that the school’s policies had the effect of “discriminating against pupils on their ethnicity and socio-economic background”.

But in April, the school won a legal challenge against the OSA’s findings that its admissions criteria unfairly disadvantaged poorer children. Following a hearing, Mr Justice Cobb announced his decision to quash some of the decisions but upheld others.

The High Court judge agreed with the OSA that it was not permissable to include “Catholic service” as one of the oversubscription criteria. This could include singing in the choir, flower arranging or carrying out voluntary work.

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