What is Christian education?

What is Christian education? What is it supposed to look like in today’s world?

Parts of an answer to these questions are starting to take shape in my head – having small children in the house makes it hard to do serious reflection since I am generally too tired to think straight … but here are some ideas.


What is Christian education for the 21st century supposed to look like? How is it going to prepare our younger generation to be like Joseph and Daniel, i.e. young people who choose to honor God no matter what the popular worldview or societal pressures may be?

I find it fascinating that Scripture tells us clearly that it is God who equips Joseph and Daniel for their jobs, and it is God who gives them favor with other people. This is a common theme throughout Scripture. God’s people accomplish great things because God goes ahead of them and He equips them. I think a Christian school needs to be a place where it is emphasized that God equips us with the knowledge, understanding, and skills we need to be successful in our academic and non-academic pursuits. This emphasis has to be intentional, and the school community needs to be reminded of it regularly.

It worries me that we sometimes over-emphasize achievement in our schools. Please understand me correctly: I think it is important to recognize achievement, but let’s recognize achievement for its encouragement value to the community instead of glorifying individuals. I think excellence is a God-given mandate since we are supposed to do everything for the glory of God. Let’s make more of an effort to thank God for enabling us to achieve.


There is a danger of becoming so ‘busy’ with doing school that we don’t make time to thank God as a community for His blessing in both our successes and failures. Does your school have a praying culture? Are you sure? There has to be time in the schedule every day and every week to be still and give Him the glory He deserves.

Another danger of unwarranted ‘busyness’ is that we may be robbing our students and teachers of discipleship opportunities when programs are so busy that there is ‘no time’ for discipleship.

I am convinced that if we choose to have a God-centered approach to the amount of activities we allow in our schools, we will be amazed ‘how much’ we will be able to accomplish. Unfortunately answering the question “How much is too much” is complicated and hotly debated. May the Lord give us the grace to respond to His voice when we have this conversation.


I have been part of Christian schooling for more than a decade. As I reflect on what I have been privileged to see and experience, I think the biggest challenge for Christian education is to be truly God-centered as opposed to only making God ‘an important’ component of what we do. Let me explain.

By the grace of God, Christian schools are often able to provide students with a positive learning experience. The world recognizes that, and as a consequence the Christian school movement has experienced rapid growth internationally. There is a challenge that comes with this recognition and growth: how do we respond to the ‘demands’ that our constituents make on us? Are we going adopt an attitude of ‘pleasing’ our ‘paying customers’, possibly compromising our integrity, or are we willing to stand firm in our resolve to stay God-centered?

I think it is easier to answer “yes” to this question than actually follow-through on it. Why? Because it means we have to be willing to trust God to sustain us financially despite possibly having to make a decision that drive some of our ‘paying customers’ away. Are we willing to ‘pay this price’ in our effort to stay God-centered and trust the Lord to provide?

We have to keep in mind that the moment we start compromising, we remove God from the center of all we do and relegate Him to a certain part of our lives / school.


My comments are in no way directed towards a specific school or individuals. If you are upset by what you read, I am really sorry. It definitely was not my intention. I am only trying to make sense of what a 21st century Christian school looks like. It has important implications for our pedagogy as well as our approach to the integration of technology.

I really need you (the reader) to participate in this conversation. Please add a Comment below.

To lifelong learning!

Stop #collaboration now – the importance of space

Yesterday our director and I had a conversation about promoting collaboration among staff members. As we were discussing what worked and what challenges we were facing, he pointed out something that I had heard before, but it never really resonated with me until now: to establish a culture of collaboration, the physical space at school needed to promote it otherwise we were going to fight an uphill battle.

It dawned on me how important architectural planning was to adopt a modern model of education that promoted communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity. So what do you do when you strongly believe in 21st century education, but the physical layout of your school is counter-productive? Here are some suggestions:

  • Group subject areas’ classrooms together: if all of the science teachers are working in the same area or share the same workroom (even better), collaboration is more likely to happen.
  • Try to build a schedule so that a subject area’s teachers all have the same prep period or lunch block.

I really would like some input from you. Can you think of any more creative ideas to promote collaboration within the constraints of existing space?

To lifelong learning!

Do you have 21/21 vision? – Part 1 of 8

In their book The Leader’s Guide to 21st Century Education Kay and Greenhill say if we want our schools to prepare students for this century, we need to have a clearly defined, personal vision of “21st century students and the education they need to get there”. We cannot expect lasting, pedagogically-sound change to happen if we are not sure what we are working towards.

According to them, there are a number of factors (they describe eight) to take into consideration in this vision-casting process. Here are my comments on / summary of the first one.

  • What skills will people (like our students!) entering your country’s workforce need to be successful? You may have to do a little research by asking leaders from a number of different industries (that may employ your school’s graduates) what they view as the most valuable skill set for an employee to have. Beware of trying to define these skills based on your experience – I think educators sometimes have strong biases that are not necessarily a reflection of what is happening outside the realm of education. You may also want to ask these leaders what skills are new employees lacking – this may be painful because it will possibly show us in what areas are we failing to prepare our students for the work force.

To do: Unless we task ourselves to do the research above, it is almost guaranteed that we are not going to do anything about it. So please go to your favorite task manager and task yourself to do research about your country’s workforce.

Please share your thoughts as comments below. Remember, the 4 C’s: collaboration, communication, critical thinking, and creativity.

To vision-filled, lifelong learning!

The journey begins …

I just bought a copy of The Leader’s Guide to 21st Century Education by Ken Kay and Valerie Greenhill on the recommendation of my Twitter Personal Learning Network (PLN). I also had the privilege of attending the Apple Leadership Workshop in Singapore recently, and the unplanned convergence of these two events has had a significant impact on my ideas about the integration of technology in education.

One of my tasks at Dalat International School is to assist teachers with the integration of educational technology in their curriculum. This year, an exciting development in this role is our school’s implementation of a 1-to-1 program using iPads in grades 9 – 12.

Now I have always enjoyed integrating various kinds of computer and Internet technology in my science classes because my gut feeling tells me these activities are more engaging than a lecture or worksheet. Informal observation and an action-research project have confirmed my hunch.

At the recent conference hosted by Apple, a question from one of the presenters caught me a little off-guard, i.e. “What is your school’s definition of learning?” Loaded question … reflect on that for a minute … does your school have one?

The attendees were also introduced to the SAMR and TPACK / TPCK frameworks for the integration of technology in education, and I realized the following: the abundance of technology tools that are available to teachers today necessitates an intentional evaluation of the pedagogical value (or not) of these tools if we want to maximize learning for our students and prepare them for the workplace. Using technology tools because of their novelty is a recipe for disaster …

Is it important to be this intentional? I think you will agree with me that school is about learning, not about entertaining our students with the newest technology. So yes, if I want to improve as a teacher (and model lifelong learning), it is important to know why and how to use educational technology in a pedagogically-sound way.

I hope that you will be willing to collaborate with me using this blog as our communication tool  to think of creative ideas that will encourage the development of critical thinking skills in our schools  Anyone is welcome to participate, no matter whether you are a teacher, student, parent, board member, or school leader. The only requirement is to do it in a respectful manner. I am going to use Kay and Greenhill’s book as well as Dr. Ruben Puentedura’s SAMR model and Mishra and Koehler’s TPACK model to guide the conversation. So come back for more, or subscribe to the RSS feed.

To lifelong learning!

Ps. Read more about the 4 C’s (as highlighted in the last paragraph) at http://www.p21.org.

Good intentions

One of my professional goals for 2012 is to start blogging about my experiences in the fortress of education. To set the record straight, I am not blogging because everyone else is blogging. I find that my days are consumed by reading and responding to emails, and teaching and assessing my online students. There is very little time left for reflection, and that is not a good thing.

I tried to start this discipline in May 2012 when I attended The Vancouver Symposium on Christian Education for the 21st Century, but I didn’t get very far … like the bicycle above. I am making a new start, here at the beginning of a new quarter in our school year. I hope that by setting aside a few minutes a week and blogging about some of the educational experiences I am having, it will help me to become a more reflective, a.k.a. better, teacher.

To lifelong learning!