"My" Carey College: A Personal Retrospective

Updated: Dec 14, 2017

When Carey College began its ministry in 1988 it was a work in which a wonderful company of believers engaged by faith for the glory of God. We did not always know exactly where we were going, but we can now look back and definitively identify where we have been.


Aim

Carey College was established as a ministry aiming to

  • help Christian parents nurture their children in the Christian faith by

  • providing a biblical-Christian schooling (as a part of children’s education)

  • inculcating a biblical world-and-life view along with

  • targeted knowledge, skill and faith, that would

  • help prepare children to love God and love their neighbour in the context of service and vocation

  • in the transitory world in which God had placed and would place them from time to time.

A subsidiary aim was the provision of a biblical-Christian schooling to children of parents not of the Christian faith in expression of our love for God and love for our neighbour by delivery of the best of schooling, and intentional evangelistic confrontation of parents and children with God in his creation.

International students have also featured in our ministry, at some times with up to 20% of enrolled students being internationals. They have similarly been of two constituencies: some have enrolled for our distinctive Christian focus, but others have been attracted by a conservative, structured curriculum at a much lower price than other options in New Zealand.

For both Christian and non-Christian families, this ministry was therefore a mix of nurture, gospel proclamation, service, and delivery of a “good” or product.


Funding

Four streams of funding were employed:

1. Christian parents were viewed as in fellowship with school and staff in ministry, investing financially through fees in their children in response to a biblical understanding of parental calling.

2. Non-Christian parents were viewed as clients of the school buying (through payment of fees) a valued product on our terms.

3. Charitable donations were received without being sought; and restrained, targeted charitable subsidies and support were given within available means.

4. State reimbursements and funding were accepted where the school’s independence and integrity were not thereby adversely impacted.


Marketing

The marketing of the school was primarily a by-product of promotion of biblical-Christian education, a commitment to which was (and is) believed to be critical for the church irrespective of patronage of Carey College, while at the same time critical to the schooling of the children of families enrolled in Carey College. This was supplemented by intentional and accidental publicity around academic achievement of the sort commonly valued in the wider community (and unashamedly valued by us).

Parental satisfaction, and staff engagement in the Christian community, supported by readily available information (in print and online), were also significant factors in securing new enrolments.


Method

Concepts of schooling, resources and curriculum were designed around biblical principles of epistemology, pedagogy, faith, knowledge and skill aligned to the place and time of the students and their families. That involved

  • consciously attempting to shape every aspect of the school to biblical revelation while seeking the help of the Holy Spirit, leading to

  • adequate but not profligate provision of resources suited to the curriculum, which expressed

  • clear specification of initial and core content that would be diversified in response to maturation of students and development of individual gifts

  • implemented by way of instruction aimed at the transmission of knowledge and skill deemed to be fitted to students, with a high level of adaptation to individual needs and gifts

  • with increasing gradual devolution of responsibility for course management and specialisation from teachers to pupils, along with the teaching of appropriate skills and values necessary for such management, over the 13 years of enrolment

  • in small multi-level classes in which mass delivery of content was specifically inhibited (being a deliberate choice to enhance individual benefit at cost to the economic efficiency that might otherwise be achieved through constraining individuals to the middle-mass characteristic of traditional class teaching)

  • taught by teachers whose faith in Christ was the vital factor of their lives; who were participating in their families, churches and community with a dynamic Christian world-and-life engagement (and not merely holding to an unpractised theoretical Christianity); who willingly entered into godly relationships with pupils, the school’s management, and parents; who were rich in curriculum knowledge in their relevant fields, skilled in responsively adapting teaching methods to individuals, and able to manage classes with compassion, upright standards, wholesome discipline and appropriate tone; and who exhibited a respectful love for children and teaching, and

  • who reported openly to parents and encouraged their informed participation in children’s learning and course planning.

It can be safely inferred from this that despite the importance of curriculum and resources, dynamic, skilled, and faithful teachers were the critical element.


Outcomes

The primary outcome of biblical ministry will always be faithfulness at the time. While this is difficult to quantify, the consistent retention of numbers of pupils, staff and parents and their expression of satisfaction and/or delight in the school’s ministry at the time was encouraging. Particularly disappointing were the small numbers of parents who shared our aims but found our ministry to their particular children inadequate.

It must also be said that ministry that enjoys God’s blessing should normally be accompanied by evidences of success. While this is also difficult to quantify, anecdotally significant numbers of past pupils and parents (but by no means all) have testified to their being blessed at Carey College and/or are known to be engaging in faithful Christian living consistent with the aims of the school.

Again, anecdotally, a small number of past pupils are known to be living in a way that does not fulfil the aims of the school. It stands to reason that those are less likely to be known to or in contact with the school, so a complete picture is difficult to establish; but again anecdotal evidence suggests that significant numbers of these (though by no means all) express appreciation of their Carey College experience. A very small number are known to have publicly criticised the school or aspects of its schooling.

Academic achievement is more easily quantified, and there have been periods in which external awards have recognised particularly high achievement across relatively high proportions of students. However, as the school deliberately accepted for enrolment students of all sorts of ability and prior learning, this does little to indicate appropriate academic progress across the body of enrolled students.

The school maintained a rigorous testing and evaluation programme that formed a sound basis for determining curriculum objectives were being largely met, and identified areas of failure that were addressed by changes in curriculum content and method as they occurred. Where external tests that reasonably aligned to the schools aims were available, such as standardised test, Cambridge tests, and Scholarship and Cambridge examinations, the data gathered by the school consistently reports higher levels of academic achievement than student evaluation on enrolment indicated might be expected.

Non academic aspects of schooling were consistently part of the school’s ministry, and a significant number of special-needs pupils were enrolled and engaged in adapted programmes of instruction. While there are a small number of relevant awards and records (such as art works) held by the school, the non-academic ministry of the school was not, in my view, adequately addressed or evaluated.


Reflection

I have been extraordinarily blessed and privileged to have engaged in this ministry over such a long period of my life. To have enjoyed work I believed to be of eternal value; to have enjoyed the dynamic, loving, Christ-centred and skilled fellowship of family, colleagues, parents and the children themselves; to have enjoyed sufficiency in the daily providence of God over such an extended time; and to have enjoyed seeing generations of children growing in confidence, knowledge, skill, faith and maturity – is something few ever experience as fully as God has granted to me to know.

“But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ's triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere.” 2 Corinthians 2:14


© 2020 Michael L Drake