The 4th International Conference on School Choice & Reform (ICSCR) took place in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, this month, bringing together researchers, policy specialists, practitioners, and organization leaders from around the world to consider how private religious schools contribute to the public good.
The Cardus Education Survey published in 2014 compares school sector differences in the U.S. to show how they influence graduates into young adulthood. CRSI, a regular contributor to this conference program, submitted a symposia entitled: “Faith-Based Schools: Current Issues and Research.” Ray Pennings, Albert Cheng, Dr. David Sikkink, and Dr. Beth Green presented this research at the prestigious conference.
Pennings provided a comprehensive review of the data which found that, contrary to many assumptions, private and public schools do not differ significantly when it comes to involvement in civic life. Cheng’s paper reviewed the data in relation to volunteering in more depth. Volunteering is a good proxy for civic commitment and involvement and tells us about graduates community ties and the strength of social trust. Dr. Sikkink’s research drilled down into some of the nuances of the data, especially in relation to STEM subjects. And Dr. Green offered a UK perspective on the CES findings. Together these papers show that religious schools do not de facto result in social segregation and that they can enrich the diversity of education provision, but that they do need to retain autonomy and the freedom to innovate in order to benefit the public good.