Catholic schools in English speaking Cameroon and their educational outcomes.
University of Southampton, Education,
Whilst the main purpose of education is a matter for political debate, there is broad consensus that it is about the acquisition of knowledge and understanding, the development of responsible attitudes and the preparation of young people for later life and wider society (Bigger and Brown, 1999). Thus, schools, as the places where the majority of young people are formally educated (McGilchrist et al., 2004), are concerned with more than just the acquisition of knowledge. Their ultimate objective in a democratic society must be to facilitate the social, academic and identity development of young people (Verma and Pumfrey, 1988) while contributing to their personal and collective happiness (Noddings, 2003). Using a cross-sectional, mixed-methods approach with 10 secondary schools from three main school types, this study investigates how well Catholic schools in English speaking Cameroon are achieving these educational outcomes for their students. The results show that even though Catholic schools have had a longstanding reputation for achieving the highest overall academic attainment, Presbyterian schools have recently performed better on this measure. The cluster of Catholic schools which have consistently produced outstanding results have perhaps perpetuated theperception that Catholic schools are still the highest performing. Catholic schools appear to fare better than ‘government’ and ‘lay private’ schools at promoting non-academic outcomes such as nurturing the spiritual development of pupils, preparing pupils for life after school, promoting the common good of society and promoting community cohesion, but appear to fail to provide to the same extent upward social mobility for poor pupils, which is an important claim for Catholic education in the literature. This research, the first of its kind in Cameroon, should enable the Church and state authorities to engage in a properly informed way in a national debate about the contribution of Catholic schools to the education system and to society. In addition, contrary to the negative literature about faith schools generally, this study shows Catholic education to be fertile ground for cultivating the democratic potential of schools (Parker, 2008) which can only be welcome news in a country enmeshed in corruption and splintered along tribal, cultural and religious lines
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