Have a little faith

Why should parents consider faith-based education for their children?

Every parent wants to make the best choices for his or her children. With economic, political, health, and educational structures in flux, parents are seeking the optimal school environment for their sons and daughters.

Because where children spend most of their early years will shape them as adults, faith-based education comes up as an option for many.    

The reason for faith-based education

Beyond academic learning is an additional focus not only on getting a good education, but also developing as a well-rounded individual whose psychosocial skills are nurtured within a spiritual or specific belief system context.  This is the key element distinguishing faith-based schools from non-faith-based ones. 

“The people who support Ottawa Christian School send their children there believe the six to seven hours a day that the children are in an academic setting reinforce what is being taught at home and at church,” says OCS principal Paul Triemstra.

Ottawa Christian School principal Paul Triemstra (Photo Courtesy Paul Triemstra)

Ottawa Catholic School Board’s director of education, Denise Andre, states that “OCSB schools educate the whole child, body, mind and spirit where the environment is respectful of the universal values of all faiths grounded in a contemporary Catholic world-view.”

Ottawa Catholic School Board director of education Denise Andre (Photo Courtesy Denise Andre)


Ottawa Jewish Community School’s head of school Dr. Jon Mitzmacher notes the social/historical emergence of Jewish day schools in North America in the 60s and 70s when increased pride due to Israel’s successful emergence as a new nation-state, and being part of a larger wave of ethnic and racial pride movements took place. 

Ottawa Jewish Community School’s head of school Dr. Jon Mitzmacher (Photo Courtesy Dr. Jon Mitzmacher)

Educated with faith: What it means to parents, teachers, and students

If you take the faith-based context further, it permeates that school’s curriculum.

At Ottawa Christian School, Christian Worldview is woven throughout the curriculum. When OCS students study geography they are learning about the “very good but broken world” God created.  They are also considering how people can live in this world in a way that cares for all of creation including humans. 

At the Catholic School Board, for example, a faith-based approach to teaching digital citizenship, is grounded in the story of the Good Samaritan.

In the Jewish Community School, secular content is not Judaized nor Jewish content secularized though the culture is governed by Jewish values. Both the story of Creation and the Big Bang Theory can co-exist in the learning environment. 

Why parents choose faith-based education

Triemstra feels parents want OCS to be a place they can trust where academic preparation for further schooling and learning to live fully as contributing citizens go hand in hand as well as physical, emotional and spiritual care for their kids. Specifically, he says, “…discipleship. That is following in the way of Jesus.  Our prayer is that our students will, following Jesus, seek the well-being of their neighbours.”

Andre agrees that people choose faith-based education to nurture each child’s mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual growth. Furthermore, she highlights the Deep Learning approach to education, “…where all are called to develop the 6Cs – critical thinking, collaboration, communication, character, creativity and citizenship, nurtured within the context of Catholic social teachings.”

Some families like the idea of community that a faith-based school provides, yet for some families, notes Dr. Mitzmacher, “It is entirely about the content of our Jewish Studies program – Hebrew fluency, Bible, Rabbinic text, Jewish history, Israel history, prayer, holiday experiences, etc.  For other families it is knowing that our school is governed by a set of Jewish values.”

The benefits of faith-based education

Triemstra references the 2018 Cardus Education Survey, which identifies benefits to attending an independent faith-based school. Among the findings, graduates have higher levels of trust with strangers, co-workers and neighbours; have a socially diverse network; are more likely to give of their time and resources; are just as or more likely to get involved in diverse political activities; and are more likely to graduate from university than public school graduates.

Triemstra also mentions that parents who send their children to independent schools like Ottawa Christian School that receives no government funding, continue to send their tax money to the publicly funded schools in Ontario. 

Though publicly funded, unique benefits can be found at Ottawa Catholic School Board schools: students have opportunities to develop religious literacy, concepts and ideas about Catholicism as well as the religions of the world and philosophy. The Family Life component of the courses includes learning about healthy relationships, anti-bullying, and moral decision-making connected to life issues.

Jewish day schools have similar outcomes to the results cited in the 2018 Cardus Education Survey: graduates overwhelmingly succeed in their next schools of choice; have a strong sense of self; enhanced connection to community and leadership capacity including within their own community as well as an understanding of philanthropy.