Examining faith-based education

What contribution does faith-informed education make to a liberal democracy? Are there multiple, educational models that need to be considered? Most definitely, and Alberta is a fertile province for academics interested in researching citizenship education.

The University of Lethbridge's Dr. Amy von Heyking, an educational historian and associate professor in the Faculty of Education, is one of those interested in documenting the institutional histories of faith-informed schools that have made the shift from independent to public systems. She looks to record stakeholders' perceptions of what they have gained or lost in the process.

Dr. Amy von Heyking
Dr. Amy von Heyking is using her University Scholar research grant to take a closer look at Alberta's educational model.

In addition to being one of the few provinces that has retained its publicly-funded separate Roman Catholic school system, Alberta is the only province to fund its charter schools with public monies. Numerous faith-informed programs and schools have also been integrated into the public system, as fully-funded alternative programs.

"Clearly, what we have is a willingness to identify and promote alternative educational models within our province," says von Heyking.

In other parts of Canada, movements to extend public funding to faith-informed schools have typically been met with resistance.

"In public or politicized debates about the issue, religious instruction is often associated with a lack of tolerance and narrow-mindedness," says von Heyking. "We need judicious scholarship that explores the impact of religious faith on the nature of schooling and, more specifically, the ability of schools to meet the civic education outcomes as defined by the province of Alberta."

Her two-year University Scholar research grant, recently awarded by the Office of the Vice-President (Academic), will allow her to make a substantial contribution to this body of knowledge.

In conjunction with her research partner, Dr. Lance Grigg, von Heyking has already conducted an exploratory study examining the impact that faith-based curricula has on citizenship outcomes in one school in southern Alberta. As a University Scholar she is able to devote additional time to research and will continue exploring the relationship between citizenship and religious education in a range of publicly funded faith-informed schools around the province.

This story originally appeared in the December issue of the Legend. For a look at the full issue of the December Legend in a flipbook format, follow this link.