Every student is in some respect like all others, like some others and like no other.(NCEC, 2018, p. 12)
Students in Catholic schools are influenced by their families, cultures, peers, social and traditional media, the technological revolution and wider society including its consumer culture. They are as diverse as are the influences that make up our communities and come with a variety of life experiences, motivations, expectations and aspirations. Students live in a variety of ‘worlds’ which influence growth and provide context for interpreting life experiences, developing new concepts and shaping values and identity.(24) The range of views students would hear in these worlds and from their peers would often be at odds with what the school would be proposing to them. Furthermore, they come from families with a variety of religious backgrounds and experience; some families have strong spiritual roots and customs, and others have little or none. (25)
These contexts are realities that cannot be ignored. They offer challenges and opportunities to Australian Catholic schools as they strive to offer rich faith formation that is responsive to the circumstances of the students and their families. In the words of Pope Francis: “Today’s vast and rapid cultural changes demand that we constantly seek ways of expressing unchanging truths in a language which brings out their abiding newness.” (26)
24 NCEC (2018), Framing Paper: Religious Education in Australian Catholic Schools, p. 8.
25 34.3% of people under 18 reported no religious affiliation at the 2016 census.
26 Francis (2013), Evangelli Gaudium, n. 41.