by Everest R. Boyce
Since World War II schools for missionaries’ children have sprung up all over the world. There are now at least 100 of them educating thousands of children in 57 countries.
Since World War II schools for missionaries’ children have sprung up all over the world. There are now at least 100 of them educating thousands of children in 57 countries. Most of these attempt to follow a curriculum generally patterned after American schools, but verb few are accredited by any U.S. regional accreditation agency. Such accreditation is available, and most American educators consider it valuable. One leading educator has called accreditation a way "…to promote and insure high quality in educational programs."1 He identifies the purposes of accreditation as follows:
1. To encourage institutions to improve their programs by providing standards of criteria established by competent bodies.
2. To facilitate the transfer o£ students.
3. To inform potential employers about the quality of training.
4. To give the layman some guidance about the institution.
While some Christian educators may consider accreditation unnecessary, it is interesting to note that there is a strong movement in secular education in the U.S. to make it difficult for a student to transfer from a nonaccredited school to an accredited school.2 Several studies have shown that there is a positive correlation between accreditation and the improvement of the quality of education in a school.3 This would seem to indicate that it would be worthwhile for a school to survive to meet accreditation standards, even if no formal application for accreditation were to be made.
But could the schools that are now teaching our missionaries’ children meet accreditation requirements? At the present time only a six of the more than 100 schools for missionaries’ children are accredited. If we were to average the statistics available for these 100 MK (missionaries’ kids) schools, we would find that this hypothetical school has 63 students, 27 of whom are living in boarding homes. It has eight teachers, seven of thorn hold U. S. teaching certificates (although two of the certified teachers are teaching outside of their area of certification). The school has a very low 8/1 student-teacher ratio. The average teacher has been teaching in the school for over four years, and is supported as a missionary by the mission agency with which the teacher is affiliated. This hypothetical school would have been founded in 1956.5
But what about the quality of education provided by this school? How would this school fare if it were to be evaluated for U.S. regional accreditation? Most educators, and parents, would agree that accreditation in secondary school is more important than in elementary school, so a study of the 24 unaccredited MK schools offering secondary level work was concluded. This study was done in the form of questionnaires that had previously been approved by the U. S. regional accreditation agencies as accurately representing their standards. The questionnaires were prepared in two parts. Part I was made up of ten factors that were found in all the agency standards. Part II was prepared to reflect the specific standards of the particular regional agency that would evaluate schools from a certain geographical area: Southern Association for Latin America, Mid-States Association for Africa, Western Associates for the Pacific region.
The items that made up Part I are not necessarily the most important factors in evaluating a school. They are, however, ten significant factors that are measurable, and that are found to be implicitly or explicitly required by all the agencies. Theoretically, a school should be able to score a positive ten out of ten or this part. Actually only one of the schools could score ten. The average was 7.4, with several schools scoring 3 or 4.
Review of this portion of the survey exposed two common problems. One is in the area of qualified personnel. Many of the schools do not have trained administrators, librarians or guidance counselors. Few Christian high schools here in the U.S. would attempt to operate without qualified people in these positions. How much more they are needed in a school where they are the only resource person available to both students and teachers! Other specific problems that came out in Part II of the survey can be directly traced to this lack of qualified key personnel. The second problem area exposed by this part of the survey was in the area of local control of the school. Many of these schools are governed by a mission board with headquarters in the U.S. This means that it is difficult for the school to respond well to the local situation.
The most serious additional problem exposed by Part II of the survey was the lack of adequately broad secondary school programs. Many have no laboratory science course. Obviously, any MK that expects to go on to higher education in the United States would be seriously hampered by the lack of laboratory science experience. The survey also showed that very few of these schools have any vocational studies, fine arts programs, or adequate physical education courses. In addition, many do not offer such courses as advanced mathematics, physics and foreign languages.
This does not mean that the educational experience provided by these schools is all bad. As has been previously mentioned, there is a low student-teacher ratio that makes it possible for he teachers to work with the students personally. Many of these teachers are very dedicated. It is impossible to evaluate the positive impact that they are able to make on their students. Many MKs are especially appreciative for the fine spiritual influence that their school has had upon their lives. This is certainly important, and probably is the key factor in explaining the fact that most MKs do successfully adjust to the States when they return, and often go on to full-time Christian service themselves. But it does seem possible to continue this good side of MK schools, while making concerted effort to strengthen the weaknesses that this study has exposed.
It is evident from the survey that while most schools are fat below accreditation standards, in many cases upgrading the school to the level of accreditation standards is feasible. In other words, the fact that they are MK schools located in distant lands is not sufficient reason for the level of educational experience they are providing. If the local school boards, the school administrators, and most important of all, the sponsoring mission agencies, were to commit themselves to the task of meeting accreditation standards, it could be done.
As a Christian educator with over twenty years of educational experience (fifteen of it in an overseas school or missionaries’ children), I would like to make the following recommendations:
1. Missionary patents, church missions committees, and mission leaders should check the detailed survey report to determine how the school (or schools) that they are using scored against the accreditation standards. Schools are listed there by name, with itemized evaluations.
2. Mission leaders, local boards, and school administrators should set the goal of having their schools meet accreditation standards within a specific period of time (such as within five years), and work directly toward that goal. Even if a school or mission has financial or theological reasons for not actually seeking accreditation, the regional accreditation standards provide a good set of guidelines for any school.
3. Any school which obviously will never reach these standards, due to such uncontrollable factors as very small enrollment, should be closed, and the students involved transported to a school that can provide better educational opportunities. In cases where no accredited school is available, and where the transporting of students is not feasible, mission agencies should refrain from assigning families with secondary school-age children in that area. If such assignment seems to be essential, it would be better for the children to remain in the States, than for them to be educationally and emotionally hindered. It is evident that this is the net effect of some of the poorest MK schooling situations.
4. Mission leaders, church mission committees, and the whole American Christian community must recognize their responsibility to provide adequate educational opportunities for the children of their missionaries. MK schools are as essential to the completion of the task of world evangelization as are missions headquarters, linguistics work, national Bible schools or any other support ministry. Missionary statesman Joe Cannon has written, "Educating children on the field is probably the greatest problem that married missionaries face…the failure to find a satisfactory solution (to this problem)…probably causes more missionaries to leave the field than anything else."6 It is the responsibility of all of us to attain this solution by providing quality schools for missionaries’ children.
1. Lloyd E. Blauch, Accreditation in Higher Education (Washington: U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare, 1959), Pps. 3-4.
2. Standards of the Commission on Secondary Schools (Atlanta: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, 1978), p.5.
3. James L. Carpenter, "Accreditation Evaluation and Institutional Change," A paper presented to the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, March 5, 1970.
4. The schools that have received regional accreditation are: Faith Academy, Manila, Philippines; The Christian Academy of Japan, Tokyo; Morrison Academy, Taiwan; Rift Valley Academy, Kenya, Africa; Ukarumpa High School, Papua-New Guinea; The Alliance Academy, Quito, Ecuador.
5. This date is taken from the "Basic School Information Report" included in the Appendix of the survey mentioned above.
6. Joseph L.Cannon, For Missionaries Only (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1969), p. 81.
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