On the night of October 10, 2014, men of the Covenant Evangelical Reformed Church gathered together in response to the call of Deuteronomy 6:7 – “And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up”. These men recognised the pressing need for our children, and our children’s children, to be given a Christian education: an education that was founded not only on academic excellence, but especially on the Word of God. That night, thirty- one men signed the roster forming our first society for Christian education, and elected six to its Board.
The Board was immediately given a number of tasks. The Board was to propose a name and constitution for the newly formed society. But more importantly, the Board had to begin investigating into the conditions necessary for forming our own Christian school in Singapore.
As the investigation progressed, it quickly became clear to the Board and Society that a fully functional Christian school – think having a school building with classrooms, labs, a gym and so on – would not be ours for several years yet. In the first place, the small number of children of school-going age in CERC today meant that it would be nearly impossible to set up such a school. There would not be enough students, nor sufficient funding to pay for the school. In addition, education in Singapore is heavily regulated by the government, thereby presenting us with a number of hurdles to cross before our school can be set up (more on this later).
With these considerations in mind, the Society at its January 2016 meeting adopted the name Covenant Christian Education Society, along with a Constitution for the Society. The adoption of the Constitution was significant because in it was embodied the basis for the Society: its belief in Scripture as the foundation for all things, the covenantal relationship between God and His people, and the need to raise covenant children for the service of God. In addition, the adopted name and Constitution reflected the unique position we had in Singapore. The Society expanded its initial goal from establishing a Christian school to one that also included providing a means for us to give our covenant children a Christian education while a school could not yet be formed.
In the course of its investigation, the Board uncovered a number of issues that would stand in the way of our having a Christian school. The largest hurdle to the formation of our Christian school today would probably be the enactment of the Compulsory Education Act. Established in 2003, the Act requires all Singaporean children to undergo Compulsory Education (CE) in a national primary school. Exemptions are only permitted for special needs children, Muslim children wishing to attend the madrasahs*, and those who wish to home-school. Parents who wish to home-school their children may apply to the Ministry of Education (MOE) for an exemption from CE, but home-schooled children must still, like all other students, sit for and complete the national Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) when they are between 11 and 15 years of age**. There are currently no laws requiring children to further their education after completing the PSLE.
Because of the apparent difficulty of giving our children of primary school- going age a Christian education, the Board has decided to focus its investigation first on the possible alternatives for Christian education for parents with young children.
Undoubtedly, the most ideal scenario would be to have our school recognized by the MOE as an official alternative to the public primary schools. However, at this point this appears difficult to do. Establishing our school as a national school would mean having to comply with standard MOE policies, which would almost certainly prevent us from teaching the Bible or from a biblical perspective. And while a Christian private school currently exists as an officially recognized alternative to public school education, it was formed before the current legislation took effect, and today the authorities appear to have little desire to grant approval for more of such schools. It is also not possible for us to establish our school as an international school, as Singaporean students would not be granted exemptions from CE to attend an international school.
The investigation appears to have yielded nothing but difficulty after difficulty, and obstacle after obstacle. Perhaps as you read this you are beginning to ask– will we ever have a Christian school?
The Board does not have an answer to that, but we trust that God will provide in His time. However, let us not despair as though the cause of Christian education is lost. While we do not yet have a Christian school, there are still possibilities for our children to be given a Christian education instead of attending a public school.
The opportunity to apply for a CE exemption to home-school our children remains open. While home- schooling cannot replace the learning experience which a child can enjoy in a Christian school, it provides us with the ability to educate our children from a Reformed perspective instead of leaving our children in the hands of the public schools. Because this option appears the most feasible as a near- term solution for Christian education, the Board is exploring the possibility of developing a Christian education experience for home-schooled children. While there are no concrete plans yet, possibilities include providing a suggested home-school curriculum for parents, and gathering the children for lessons, outings or other activities.
Despite the difficulties, let us remember that the Christian education of our children is an urgent calling for us. The third generation of children are already arriving one by one, and in God’s providence we will be blessed with more children in future as our young people marry. We – yes, all of us – have to be ready to raise these children in the ways of the Lord. How can we be ready?
Young people, make the covenant education of your children a priority.
You may not be married, or even dating at this point, but you can already begin to make preparations to enable you to give your children a covenant education in future. Start by taking an interest in the work of the Society, because providing our children with a Christian education is not only the Board’s work. It is also your calling too! Familiarize yourself with the possibilities and constraints of Christian education in Singapore. In addition, recognize that you may one day need to apply for a CE exemption to home-school in order to give your child a Christian education. There are certain requirements to be fulfilled for that exemption to be granted, and you can begin exploring how you can be ready to meet the requirements, should the time come that you need to apply for that exemption.
Adult members, your own children may be past the school-going age, or perhaps the Lord has not given you children of your own. Nevertheless, the calling in Deuteronomy 6 comes to you as well. As the entire nation of Israel was commanded to teach their children the ways of God, so also are you to teach the children of our church, though they may not be your own. If you are able, consider giving financially to help the cause of Christian education, for Christian education is costly, especially for young parents raising a family on one income. You can also volunteer your time to support the activities related to Christian education, perhaps by teaching a class or two, or being a chaperone at an outing for the children, should such activities be organized. In any case, Christian education is no easy task, and there will be many different ways for you to contribute.
Finally, pray for the work of the Society and the Board, for the work ahead is too great for our own strength to bear. It is only through Christ, relying on His strength and resting on His promises, that we may one day see our children, and children’s children for generations to come, educated in a solidly Reformed school.
*Madrasah: An Islamic religious school
Written by: Daniel Tang | Issue 40