CATHOLIC EDUCATION (in AUSTRALIA) and
MOUNT CARMEL COLLEGE
(Investigator Magazine 186, 2019 May)
Mount Carmel College (MCC) in Rosewater, Adelaide, is one of 1700 Catholic
schools in Australia which educate almost 20% of Australia's students.
(From: Australian Bureau of Statistics website)
The "College" is a secondary school with approximately 550 students and
60 staff, where students receive a Catholic education from Years 7-12.
The annual "Open Day" on March 13, with displays of text books,
course-outlines and student assignments, monitored by teachers ready to
converse, provided opportunity to investigate Catholic education.
The Queensland Education Act (1860) and Victoria Education Act
(1872) were precursors to free secular education Australia-wide and the
abolishing of State aid to church schools by the Public Instruction Act
The Catholic Church organized a separate education system staffed by
nuns, priests and brothers of religious orders. These included the
Sisters of St Joseph or Josephites (co-founded by Mary MacKillop in
South Australia in 1866), and the "Marist Brothers" who came from
France in 1872.
The Marist Brothers is a global institute, founded in France in 1817,
to build schools and teach young people, particularly the
underprivileged, to become "Good Christians and Good people". "Marist"
refers to Mary, Jesus' mother, and her example of humility. Marist
Brothers now number 3500 in 79 countries (in Australia 300) working
with 40,000 lay Marists in school settings, religious retreats,
orphanages and missions.
Mary MacKillop (1842-1909) travelled widely and founded schools to
educate underprivileged children. In 1910 about 5000 "sisters" from all
orders were teaching in Catholic schools.
In 1868 Josephites established co-educational schools in Port Adelaide and Alberton.
Marist Brothers established "Mount Carmel Boys School", on the MCC site, in 1927. This was closed in 1966 and the girls
from nearby "Mount Carmel Girls Secondary School" relocated there. The
School became co-educational in 1983.
The MCC motto is "Caritas et Dignitas" (Love and
Dignity). These values: "reflect our heritage as a Catholic School in
the Josephite tradition..." (2018 Parent Handbook, p. 4)
The Rosewater Trade Training Centre situated behind the College was
opened in 2014 and is funded by the Government's "Trade Training
Centres in Schools" program.
TOURING THE COLLEGE
Visitors during Open Day could walk around and enter various rooms to
find out about the curriculum and read student assignments on display.
Religion is a compulsory subject at MCC until Year 11.
Supervising this room was Marianne Shaw — teacher, Assistant Principal, and coordinator of Religious Education.
Items on display from younger students included sample prayers, their
impressions about God, comparisons of Christianity with Buddhism, and a
table displaying assignments on the topic of "Kindness".
Some of the write-ups about God pointed out that God can't be seen or
described (except for his qualities). Several mentioned the Trinity,
and one pointed out that God protects people so that they don't get
Mrs Shaw said that Religious Education includes study of other major
religions but mainly provides students with deeper insight into the
Catholic faith. Asked whether students from other religions and
atheists could enroll she said yes.
On this point the Catholic Education Diocese of Cairns website says:
Historically, Catholic schools existed predominantly to educate
children from Catholic families. In recent years though, Church
documents including 'The Catholic School on the Threshold of the Third
Millennium' (1998) have advocated a more inclusive approach to Catholic
education, and specifically, a more welcoming attitude toward those
with special educational needs, those who are socio-economically
disadvantaged, from Indigenous or multicultural backgrounds and those
who have faiths other than Catholic.
This growing ecumenical and inclusive outlook has prompted Catholic
schools to be more open in their enrolment policies and practices…
MCC activities include daily prayer, Catholic
liturgies and masses, and: "Participation ... is required". This would
pose interesting dilemmas for an atheist or a Jehovah's Witness (whose
religion forbids joint worship with other faiths).
Student-work here on display included a project on World War I which
explained why Australians volunteered to fight overseas (some
anticipated a free holiday), and listed the causes of the War, and
outlined some military campaigns that involved Australian
Forty years ago most assignments of students, even at University, were
hand-written. But now, as seen at MCC, students'
essays and assignments, including by the youngest students, are often
word-processed and printed with a printer.
Next on my self-directed tour was an auditorium with a stage where students rehearse and put on plays and music performances.
One of the learning categories at the College is "The Arts" which
includes Art, Dance, Drama and Music including lessons on Drums,
Guitar, Piano, Trumpet, Trombone or Saxophone.
An ancient looking "Honours Roll" on the far side engraved with names
caught my attention. The name "Shaw" in the right-hand column reminded
of Marianne Shaw — perhaps a relative of her husband?
A student offered to answer questions and a small crowd seemed to be
getting ready to rehearse something, but it was time to move on.
Here mathematics textbooks were on display. The College uses Haese
Mathematics: Mathematics for Australia which are designed and written
for the Australian Curriculum up to Year 12. The company is a family
owned, Australian, specialist publisher.
A schedule for mathematics classes displayed on the wall revealed that
students study probability and statistics in Year 8. When my generation
went to school, probability/statistics began in Year 12!
The Mary MacKillop Special Education Unit was added to the College in
1992. Here fulltime students with learning needs including mild
intellectual disability and autism get extra assistance, but also join
in the social life of the College.
They follow an Individual Education Plan, study "Modified" subjects,
learn the range of skills that other students learn, and can
potentially reach Year 12 and obtain their South Australian Certificate
of Education (SACE).
As a quick, rough estimate the Library has about 5000 academic books,
covering the range of subjects taught in the College, except part of
one shelf labeled "Philosophy" which is a University subject. Another
area of books by the windows appeared to be fiction.
After a quick look at the gymnasium, the school grounds, and the Psychology room came the Science room.
Here too textbooks were on display including books on biology and
chemistry. The teacher here on duty was, like the others, eager to
engage and explain things. To the question whether there's any conflict
between biology and religion she said there's no conflict. Biology, she
explained, is science but religion is belief and does not involve
Time was lacking to elicit more detail. Websites and magazines,
however, exist that feature debates on religious topics such as
Investigator Magazine which has published scores of debates on Bible
topics. In the majority of such debates the proponents cite scientific
textbooks and journals. This suggests that the two domains, science and
religion, overlap whenever the accuracy of religious claims is examined.
STUDENTS AND STUDIES
Like other high schools MCC has taught Years 8 to 12, but from 2019 teaches also Year 7.
School uniform must be worn at school and other official school functions. There are strict rules regarding makeup, tattoos,
piercings, hair-style, jewelry, grooming, and dress-length (=
knee-length) — the last apparently not strictly enforced. Due to
the required level of conformity, one MCC student, on a website for
rating one's school, compared the students to "clones".
A diary (for recording homework, school-parent contact, etc) is
also compulsory. Students carry Student Identification Cards and have
lockers at school with combination locks.
The school has computer rooms but home access to Internet and digital technologies is necessary.
There's a bus stop near the main entrance and a train-station a
6-minute walk away. Many students live locally and walk home; others
get picked up by car.
Attendance is 8.25 am to 3.00 pm during which students attend seven
40-minute lessons. Years 10 to 12 students have the option of an
additional hour after school twice weekly with individual attention by
the supervising teacher. On two other days library access is also
extended an hour.
The learning areas or categories are:
• The Arts (Art, Dance, Drama and Music);
• Business, Enterprise, and Technology;
• Cross-disciplinary Studies;
• Health and Physical Education;
• Humanities and Social Sciences (Geography, History, Business & Commerce);
• Science (Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Psychology).
At the Trade Training Centre Years 10 to 12 students can get Vocational
Education (which counts toward SACE requirements) in Metal Engineering
and Manufacturing, Construction/Building trades, and Hairdressing and
Additional learning activities include:
• Work Awareness days to practice job interviews and otherwise prepare for transition to employment;
• Health and Safety training;
• Activity outings;
• Religious Retreats;
• Annual Camp;
• Children’s University Australia (run by Adelaide University);
• Tertiary Studies and Careers Expo at the Adelaide Convention Centre;
• Road Safety and Road Awareness programs;
• Careers Evening.
The recommended daily homework hours increase as students advance:
||Hours per evening
| Hours on Weekend
School holidays can be busy too with work placements, work experience, and rehearsing for drama and music.
School-attendance, homework and other official activities together
occupy senior students over 55 hours per week. Putting in the hours correlates with success — the College online magazine, News
& the Mount, commends students on their 2018 SACE results: "More
than 99% of all grades awarded were C- or higher." (Edition 1, 1919)
The College also schedules social activities such as family evenings, a
Sports Day, and a Senior Formal for Years 11-12, and a Year 12
LEADERSHIP, SPORTS and WELLBEING
A Student Leadership Team is elected each year from Year 12 to
represent students in school decision-making. Student leaders are also
elected from Years 8-11 to liaise with the Leadership Team on school
Also elected are "House Captains" to represent four House Groups to
which students are allocated and which compete in sports and other
activities to win the House Shield. Sports offered include Athletics,
Baseball, Basketball, Cricket, Football, Netball, Soccer, Tennis and
Student wellbeing is promoted by:
• Qualified counselors;
• A first aid room;
• College ambulance cover;
• Information about and referrals to external support services;
• Websites on cyber-safety recommended to parents;
• A College vaccination program (including the Australian-made Cervical Cancer Vaccine); and
• A mentoring program whereby reliable senior
students serve as "Big Sisters and Big Brothers" to new students.
Based on the "Love and Dignity" motto, and Jesus' call to "love your
neighbour" (Luke 10:25–28) the College has policies against violence,
bullying, sexual harassment, and illicit or unauthorized use of drugs
and medication. The Curriculum includes Life Skills classes and
workshops that provide information about drugs, alcohol, safe partying,
mental health, stress management, etc.
The MCC Canteen menu includes various salads, yogurts, "veggie" and
fish burgers, and other healthy-seeming choices, very different to what
Penberthy (2019) remembers of the "tuck shop" at his school in the
1970s — besides pies and pasties "an assortment of sweet buns and
cakes, all of them covered in icing or filled with cream."
Part-time work outside of school times is encouraged, but no more than
ten hours weekly to minimize detrimental impact on studies. Many of the
younger workers at the local Foodland supermarket are MCC students. They usually start at Foodland when in Year 10 or 11 and
some have stayed six or seven years until completing university
Government aid to church-run schools stopped in 1880. Around 1960
shortages of priests and nuns led to Catholic education under lay
leadership expanding which required increased school fees. The threat
of government schools being flooded beyond coping capacity with
Catholic students led to the reintroduction of state aid to
The Diocese of Cairns website says the following, which also appears true of MCC:
For those who can’t afford to pay school fees, discounts and
concessions are available so that no child is denied a Catholic
education based on their family’s financial situation...
Because of their outreaching focus and preferential option for the poor
and disadvantaged, Catholic schools seek to keep fees as low as
possible... Fees are therefore significantly less than private and
Recently the Australian Government announced its "Quality Schools
Package" under which schools get record funding increases, $17 billion
in 2017 to $31 billion in 2029, but need to introduce reforms that
improve students' educational outcomes. The projection for Catholic
schools is from $6.3 billion to $10 billion.
State schools Australia-wide number approximately 6700, Catholic schools 1700 and Independent schools 1100.
Year 12 students of all these schools sit for the government-endorsed
certificate recognized by Australian universities and vocational
training centers. Catholic schools such as Mount Carmel College are
free to teach religion but must also adhere to all requirements of the
secular education system.
O'Farrell, P. 1968 The Catholic Church in Australia, Nelson
Penberthy, D. Sunday Mail, April 7, 2019, p. 71
Other articles in #186:
Utilitarianism and Divine Command
Kindness at Mount Carmel College
- Necessary Existence
- Exiled from Jerusalem to Babylon — 586 bce or 607 bce
Nobel Laureate Skeptics of Darwin