This is a guest post. Another advocate of Accelerated Christian Education has come forward to give her reasons for using the curriculum. Monica does a great job explaining herself, so I’ll give you no introduction. Please read it and let me (and Monica) know what you think.
I am writing this as a person with over 20 years’ experience of working in Christian Schools and home education with ACE as a Supervisor (teacher) for a range of ages from 4-18 years. My degree was in Chemistry and Biochemistry so I have taught practical science in schools as well as the ACE Curriculum. I also had the privilege of spending two years as an inspector (not Ofsted) for ACE Schools as commissioned by Christian Education Europe, UK who provide the curriculum.
My two main aims in writing this are to clarify the use and aims of the ACE curriculum in ACE Schools in the UK and also to make it clear that every curriculum has underlying beliefs and values.
In fact, some years ago, I wrote an article which I published in a leaflet called, ‘Education is Not Neutral’. The idea that education consists of a curriculum package containing a body of knowledge which is passed on to pupils in a sterile environment is truly false. Every curriculum has an underlying worldview whether it is religious or atheistic. The Jews, the Moslems, Christians and atheists all want to pass on the beliefs and values of their particular worldview to the next generation.
Education is the transference of principles and knowledge from one generation to the next, whether it is actually religious or not. The French, for example, declaring themselves a secular state, have excluded religion from their curriculum (except for the Catholic Schools) but include philosophy. Although this is essentially non-religious it is still the transference of ideals and values based on atheistic humanism.
Naturally, Christian parents would prefer to impart Christian values to their offspring rather than secular ones. Likewise the Moslems and the Jews, and thankfully, parents have the liberty in the UK to have some choice about their children’s education. This remains their right and their responsibility. The suggestion therefore that Christian Schools ‘indoctrinate’ children is true in a way, although the word indoctrination has a negative connotation and I would prefer to use the words ‘impart and share.’ They are not unique in this though, since every system of education passes on its ideas and values.
I would now like to write about the workings of ACE as I think this is something that is often misunderstood so I would like to clarify this. On the practical side, in the majority of schools the ACE curriculum is studied in the mornings since it is academic in nature and most children concentrate better at this time of day. The afternoons normally consist of practical activities such as sports, arts and crafts, drama, music and any other subjects not covered by ACE. This would include language learning at secondary level along with some UK history, geography and some English literature since ACE is mainly American. It is expected that there will be opportunities for children to interact, play team games etc. Since ACE is individualised there needs to be opportunity for this to bring a balance.
The ACE curriculum itself covers, maths, English, science, social studies (geography and history), word-building (spelling) and English Literature for all ages from 3-18. I also endorse (referring to Lyndell’s comments) that the Learning to Read Scheme is excellent. At the upper end of the scale, CEE in the UK has developed Certificates at levels equivalent to GCSEs and A levels, which are accepted and recognised by Universities and Colleges and is called the International Certificate of Christian Education. (ICCE)
In addition to all this, there is an annual event called the European Student Convention where schools participate and compete in many different types of events from the performing arts, to sports, practical skills such as woodwork and photography and also academic skills such as quizzes and essays. Students aged 12 years and above, spend a part of their school year preparing for this and it gives them opportunity to develop skills and the confidence to perform as well as interact with students from other schools. This event is highly commended by Ofsted and they encourage ACE Schools to participate in this event, which currently takes place in Somerset over a few days around Easter time.
I hope this gives a better idea of how the ACE curriculum is part of a bigger picture. I will now address the curriculum itself:
It is of a high academic standard. An independent organisation known as NARIC have investigated the content of the Certificates (ICCE) produced by CEE and found them to be of a good academic standard.
It is individualised as pupils each have their own workbooks and work through them at their own pace. This accommodates both the bright student who will not be held back as well as the slow ones who need longer to digest the material.
It encourages students to take responsibility for their own work as they set their own goals each day (with guidance) and have to complete those goals or take them for homework.
The curriculum itself and the way it is run is character building. Christian values are taught throughout (love your neighbour etc.) and the student has to correct his own work and be responsible for what he does. There are rules to be followed to ensure the correct use of the curriculum and they also provide character training for the student.
There are rewards and incentives built into the system, which encourage the students.
Admittedly, the curriculum is prescriptive but so are other curricula too. If you take GCSEs for example, there is necessarily a set syllabus, which teachers teach to. In the main, pupils will regurgitate what the teacher tells them in order to pass the exams.
There are some aspects of the ACE curriculum which nowadays may be considered old-fashioned and do need some updating but the environment of the school itself, the attitudes of teachers, parents and other pupils are likely to be the biggest influence on a child’s life and it is up to teachers and parents to be open to answer pupils’ questions.
Not all schools hold fully to the American fundamentalist view described in ACE but this does not therefore invalidate a system which otherwise works well. Christian Schools are organised and run by Christians from a huge variety of different church backgrounds and the ACE curriculum is a useful tool. Many Christians prefer to use a curriculum which has some drawbacks but agrees with the basics of Christianity rather than submit their children to a totally atheistic and secular education.
However, I do believe that most Christian Schools, accepting secondary students for the first time, require the agreement of the child as well as the parent as this kind of system does not work well without the pupil’s cooperation. Having resentful teenagers in school is unhelpful for them and for the other students too.
I have read some of the bad experiences that people had with ACE from your blog and some of those were very unfortunate and demonstrates to me that ACE is a tool and any tool can be misused. It is the way a school implements it that is so important. Hopefully, it should be run by teachers who have love and compassion for the students and desire the best for them. I am happy to say that this is certainly my experience in nearly all of the schools I have visited in the UK. I should also mention that all ACE Schools are subject to government Ofsted inspections which are available online and can be read by the public.
What of the fruit of these particular schools? The best test of an education system is how the students turn out at the end. I only know of anecdotal evidence but many schools say that colleges and employers are glad to receive students who have learned to take responsibility for their own work, are honest and truthful and able to turn up to work or lectures on time. The character-building aspect of Christian Schools seems to bear fruit. This is true of all types of Independent Christian Schools regardless of whether or not they use ACE.
I have not addressed the Creationist view which runs throughout the ACE curriculum because it really needs another whole article to deal with this. As a scientist, I see more evidence for a Creationist view than for evolution which is a faith of its own kind – but that’s another story. There are plenty of articles on the evidence for a Creationist view published on websites like Answers in Genesis, which people can read for themselves.
Monica Stringer B.Sc. (London), Ph.D.