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Pedagogy for Christian Education in the 21st Century

Global Education Fund for Leadership Development

Yonsei University, South Korea
February 13-16, 2012

To answer the question posed by this topic, we have to briefly examine Phililipine Culture, and thereafter, clarify what is meant by the Religious Education and Pedagogy in the context of the 21st Century:

Philippine Culture

Philippine culture has been influenced by the teachings of Buddhism, Hinduism, Confucianism, Islam and Christianity. These teachings, combined with a wide variety of animistic indigenous beliefs, has melded into a syncretic form of Christianity  as currently practiced by a majority of Filipinos today.

The 333 years of colonization under Spain has Christianized the Philippines to a high degree.

On the other hand, according to Aram A. Yengoyan (America and Protestantism in the Philippines), Under the 48 years of American rule, the conversion to Protestantism was secondary to America’s global civilizing role throughout the world, in which enlightened democratic liberalism was the keystone to the modern rational nation-state. American Protestant beliefs at the turn of the century expressed the American worldly mission based on nationalism, a sense of patriotism and what was described as benevolent imperialism.

The politics of Protestantism in the American Philippines were closely linked to the idea that the enemy was not only Spain but also the Catholic Church, which had corrupted local peoples through a misguided sense of dogma and superstition. Thus, the conviction was that Protestantism would bring forth the best of Christianity combined with another type of civilizing process, one linked to Euro-American liberalism and democracy.

Conversion of Catholics to Protestantism occurred, but the scale and intensity were minuscule in comparison to what had happened under Spanish rule…. Thus, the greatest legacy of American Protestantism in the Philippines is essentially not religious, but lies in the establishment of medical facilities and schools through which Protestantism and Americanism combined to offer the fruits and benefits of Western civilization.”

This Protestant legacy has survived to the present as the public schools and hospitals currently managed and funded by the Philippine government. This legacy also includes some Protestant-run private hospitals and the 118 mainline Protestant schools belonging to the Association of Christian Schools, Colleges and Universities (ACSCU).

The ACSCU was established in 1946, which was the year the Philippines gained independence from America. This organization has committed itself to the sacred task of providing quality Christian education and the teaching of the Holy Bible as part of its curricula.

On the other hand, the much bigger Roman Catholic legacy of 1,200 schools run by various Roman Catholic Orders and Dioceses are currently members of the Catholic Education Association of the Philippines (CEAP). The biggest is the pontifical University of Santo Tomas (UST) which claims to be the oldest university in Asia. It is run by the Dominican Order which was the main implementer of the Roman Inquisition from 1814 to the mid-19th century.

Based on the Year 2000 census, the religious composition of the Philippines is: Roman Catholic 80.9%, Evangelical 2.8%, Iglesia ni Kristo 2.3%, Aglipayan 2%, other Christian 4.5%, Muslim 5%, other 1.8%, unspecified 0.6%, none 0.1% (

Roman Catholic and Protestant Christians compose 90% of Philippine population. This has influenced the Filipino psyche very significantly.

In a survey of 41 countries conducted by Laura H. Lippman and Hugh McIntosh (The Demographics of Spirituality and Religiosity Among Youth: International and U.S. Patterns, September, 2010), the Philippines (with Egypt) was ranked 5th highest in terms of religiosity and spirituality among its youth. The four countries which were ranked higher than the Philippines and Eqypt were Indonesia (1st), Bangla Desh (2nd), Nigeria (3rd) and Pakistan (4th). It is notable that in these top-ranked countries, the majority of population are Muslims except the Philippines, which is dominated by Christians.

A pattern noted in this study is the clear imprint of religion on beliefs in countries with a history of an influential dominant religion, such as Islam or Catholicism, so that young adults from these countries score relatively high on questions of spirituality and religiosity.

But as countries develop economically, there is less emphasis on traditional religious values.” (Laura H. Lippman and Hugh McIntosh). This is shown when we compare the ratings of the Philippines, which has a struggling economy, and South Korea, which has a world-leading economy and technology base (Source. Original Analysis by Child Trends of World Values Survey Data, 1999-2001).

Table 1

Spirituality of 18- to 24-Year-Olds, 2000 World Values Survey


Rating (%)


South Korea

Importance of Religion in Respondent’s Life



Does Respondent Believe in God?



Importance of God in Respondent’s Life



The findings also corroborate research that spirituality does not go hand-in-hand with religiosity. Many young persons who consider themselves to be spiritual do not participate in traditional religious practices.” (Laura H. Lippman and Hugh McIntosh).  In the case of the Philippines, its survey rating on spirituality is higher than its rating on religiosity. This implies that Filipinos are more spiritually-oriented than religion-oriented. It may also reflect the frustrations of many Filipinos with their church leaders and clergy.

The latent spirituality of Filipinos is expressed in their cultural norms, values and mores such as: self-respect,propriety, shame, debt of gratitude, friendliness, openness, respect for elders and gender, conflict resolution, adaptability, personalism, familism, cooperation and charity.

But the presence of these positive Filipino values do not guarantee ethical behavior when operationalized in the business and political environments, as well as in the administrative processes of the government.

It is often observed that weak government and lack of social discipline are the main causes of economic retardation in the Philippines. It is claimed that this is due to the lack of Confucian ethos, which has been strongly imprinted in the more progressive countries of China, Korea, Japan and Vietnam.

For according to the thesis of Confucian capitalism which is based upon the culture-centered perspective of modernization, the Confucian emphasis on a strong state and political authority, education and self-cultivation, frugality and thrift, hard work and labor discipline, social harmony and group orientation, social civility and the role of intellectuals, has been conducive to the capitalist development in East Asia.” (Jun Sang-In)

While Confucian nations give priority to national interests over family interest, in the Philippines, it is the opposite.

But according to Jun Sang-In, what needs to be noted here is not the function of Confucianism as a unified concept but the social institutions and state policies within the Confucian cultural traditions. Attention should be paid to the structural conditions in which a particular culture is produced, consumed, distributed, mobilized, and repressed. In the analysis of East Asian capitalism, what matters is not Confucianism but the power relationship behind it.”

Indeed, this is the very reason why Christian churches and schools in the Philippines do not only teach, but also actively function as ethical guardians of elections, the environment, law and justice, health, human rights, social and economic development, and governance.

For its part, the Roman Catholic Church has been so successful preventing birth control programs in the Philippines that as of July, 2011, it is estimated that the Philippines already has a population of 101,833,938, the 12th largest in the world. And ironically, in consideration of the economic impacts of this rapid population growth, Hongkong Shanghai Banking Corporation has just recently projected that by Year 2050, the Philippines will leapfrog 27 places (from 43rd place) to become the world’s 16th largest economy.

The churches and their congregations, church-related schools and their faculty and students, civic groups, non-government and peoples organizations have banded together to neutralize graft and corruption and improve government policy-making and administrative processes. They have also been allowed to participate in governance in the different levels of government through various laws and administrative orders enacted by national and local government agencies. And this is the reason for the empowerment and explosive growth of civil society in the Philippines.

Religious Education

Going back to the comparative spirituality and religiosity of Filipinos and South Koreans mentioned earlier, it could be argued that since the South Koreans have focused their time and talent to scientific, technological and economic development, they would have less time available for spirituality or religiosity.

This situation though does not make them essentially less spiritual or religious; because productive work, when it generates value and improves the quality of life, creates harmony and unity, and facilitates self-realization, can also be considered a potent and desirable vocation, if not a practical form of religion. For indeed a prayerful work is more valuable than an idle prayer. And we can pray while working and work while praying!

Among us Filipinos, this is the dilemma facing us now. If we are spiritual and religious, why can we not also become highly accomplished scientifically and technologically, and become economically more productive?

When we teach both science and religion in our schools, it is difficult to avoid their outright confrontation and collision, because we do not usually explore their convergence and unification.

The mind of the Filipino student is dissected into two compartments. The first compartment must always believe what religion teaches through faith. The second compartment must always doubt, explore, discover and believe only what is empirically proven.

In many Christian schools where a misguided sense of dogma and superstition still persist, the mind of students are not awakened to the cutting-edge of science and its convergence and unification with religion.

For Methodist education to survive the 21st century, it must shed-off the dogmatic skins of its faith-based teachings and rejuvenate them with the newest findings of science.  Maybe it is proper for IAMSCU to study how we can synthesize our religious teachings with the scientific and philosophical issues confronting church beliefs today.

In our Christian schools,

  • Religious Instructors are dazed by the claim of scientists that our body including our brains are just swirling systems of atomic particles and nothing is really solid as we see ourselves; and we have the ability to live in a physical form in a three dimensional world only because we have thought and consciousness.
  • They are overwhelmed by the gravity of teaching about the God who created the universe, who, himself, was not created and has no beginning and no end. Is it not illogical to imagine a universe that has no beginning, no origin? How can the universe exist if it is truly without beginning?
  • They are confused on what theory of human origins to teach? the Creationist, Evolutionary or Interventionist theory?  And how to explain the origins of the genetic code, whether it was designed by God or simply evolved by chance?

Religious instructors meet obstacles for inclusiveness, multi-cultural understanding and social harmony whenever they delve on such questions as:

  • How can we teach Christian salvation (which we preach to be through Christ alone) and at the same time promote interfaith harmony in this world?
  • How can we not accept the manifestation of God in other religions (a belief that effectively limits God’s opulence) when our very own Christian doctrine teach not only of a Trinitarian God but also of an omnipotent, omniscient  and omnipresent  God?

And while moral and ethical values can be taught to students in class, we all know it is easier for them to learn when these values are caught from the behaviors of school administrators, faculty and staff, clergy and church leaders, themselves.

Sadly, even church schools and institutions are essentially human organizations. And without the proper screening, training and development of creative, disciplined and spiritually-conscious educational leaders, the quality of education and the schools’ sustainability and very own survival are placed at great risk. So the matter of developing the resources and leadership of our Methodist schools are paramount if we want our church to be able to continue using them as potent agencies for evangelization and church growth.

As Christian schools, we profess a holistic educational mission that promotes academic excellence, social relevance and spiritual nurture.

The experience at Aldersgate Street inspired our founders to establish schools with high academic standing, which are devoted to the molding of Christian character, the training of leaders, scientific research, and the strengthening of democratic institutions; that whosoever passes through its portals comes out transformed: morally upright and spiritually awakened – a brave and sagacious leader, with an enlightened mind, a compassionate heart, and able and ready hands.


At this juncture, it is necessary that we clarify pedagogy, delving on doctrinal issues confronting Christian education and the curricular adjustments required to synchronize them with 21st century information and thinking. Related to this is the need to modify Christian education processes to harmonize them with the needs of the 21st century learner.

The root meaning of Pedagogy is leading children. It is defined as the art or science of being a teacher” and it generally refers to strategies of instruction, or a style of instruction.”  (Jo McShane, 2007)

This is the opposite of  Andragogy, or learner-centered education, which not only portrays the most effective method of learning in this digital age but also describes the adult learning process, such as the (a) freedom to select learning goals and methods relevant to the person’s needs, (b) problem-centered rather than content-centered learning, (c) learning from experience, and (d) creative thinking and collaboration with fellow learners.

In reality, current teaching and learning activities apply both principles of pedagogy and andragogy in all levels of education. They only differ in intensity.

The lower the level of education (early childhood to the elementary and junior high school levels), the more pedagogical strategies are used. And teachers teach, or command and control the learning process.

The higher the level of education (senior high school, undergraduate and graduate) more andragogical strategies are used. And teachers must facilitate more and enliven learning.

According to Trent Batson (The Problem of ‘Pedagogy’ in a Web 2.0 Era), in a time of knowledge stability, teach;  in a time of rapid change in knowledge, learn.” So Dimmock (2000), recommends that instead of a teaching-centered school, we develop learning-centered schools whose mission, organization, leadership and curriculum delivery are all singularly focused on providing successful  learning.

Those born around 1990 can be said to belong to the Digital Communication Culture.  They usually grew up and have become adept with information and communication technologies from an early age. They have become citizens of the digital world which now provides instant access to all information related to:

  • All religions, sciences, arts and educational disciplines
  • All existing bibles, religious and scientific writings, books, journals, magazines
  • All kinds of theological and educational presentations, music and videos
  • All kinds of theological and biblical analysis, sermons, music and videos

Plenty of these digital resources can be freely downloaded, copied, shared and re-produced from the internet. And because of this deluge of information, the theologian, the religious person, the teacher and the student have been enormously empowered and made independent.  As a consequence, they have become:

  • More knowledgeable, because virtually all information can be accessed at the click of a mouse.
  • More interactive, because it allows them to ask questions and interact directly and swiftly with the source of information.
  • More potent, because they can easily share their continuously enhanced ideas with other people anywhere in the world.

All these means that the pace of religious education in our own churches and schools can be immensely accelerated. What takes years to learn in Sunday Schools and Bible Studies can be learned in a few months. What takes semesters to learn in Religion Classes can be covered in several days.

But rapid acquisition of knowledge also creates an abundance of questions. Scientific discoveries whether in the field of archeology, biology, physics or astronomy surely provide answer to their respective scientific questions.  But such discoveries will either support or demolish the interpretation of biblical scriptures, the integrity of church traditions and the doctrines of faith-based religions.

Does this mean we cannot anymore avoid Secularization, in which society loses belief and adherence to religious creeds, practices and institutions due to modernization, rationalization and scientific advance?

Secularization has happened before and it will continue to happen as long as religion fails to seek its convergence and unity with science.

Science is also trying to catch-up with religion.  Many of science’s monumental discoveries and inventions have been inspired by the holy scriptures and ancient writings throughout the world.

Both religion and science share the immanent physical and metaphysical realities created by God. And so they must work together. And this pedagogy of questioning, participation and transformation to continually discover truths and live by the truth is the pedagogy we need to continue using in this new century.

When John Wesley  proclaimed that the quadrilateral pillars of our Christian faith was

some people developed the wrong notion that Methodists are required to become reasonable persons and yet possess a strong belief in something without proof or evidence!  Indeed, being reasonable and believing without proof or evidence is, by itself, contradictory and irrational.

But this seeming inconsistency is rationalized by using the fourth pillar of our faith, i.e.,Reason.  By using Reason, we can better understand the Scriptures, our Tradition and  our own Spiritual Experiences. Without Reason, the four pillars of faith would crumble.

So when John Wesley talks about our Methodist faith, it is not a blind faith that makes dogmatic charlatans out of good people. Our churches and schools were established to develop the power of reason, so we can liberate people from ignorance, penury and hopelessness and help them commence their own journey for social and economic transformation, and spiritual salvation.

The judicious use of reason is wisdom. Wisdom is not separate from but an essential ingredient of holiness.  For I have never met a holy person who is not yet wise. But I have met so many wise persons who are not yet holy!

So as holiness is like a newly-completed sailing ship ready for its voyage, grace is the wind that powers its sails towards its spiritual destination.

May the grace of God through Christ Jesus teach us, lead us, and empower us all!

Thank you!