Lionel Boulton, chief moderator and academic adviser for the International Certificate of Christian Education, writes:
The Accelerated Christian Education (ACE) curriculum – which is taught in about 30 independent religious schools across the UK, has come under attack in recent years, with critics slamming its pro-creationist approach to science in particular.
And the International Certificate of Christian Education (ICCE) – the main qualification pupils work towards – has also been the subject of criticism, with questions raised over its value as a means of gaining entry to university.
But I believe the criticism of the ACE curriculum and ICCE to be misplaced, and the misrepresentation of what we do undermines our very successful work.
Yes, we approach each school subject – English, maths, science, history and geography among others – from a Biblical perspective, but this is not to say that the curriculum or exams are in some way defective. Quite the contrary.
It is my belief that the ACE programme of study and the ICCE qualification provide an excellent education for all students of varied abilities, largely because the system is completely individualised.
Because it operates through a system of separate booklets that students work through at their own pace, it allows them to take responsibility for their work, encourages goal-setting and allows students to maximise the use of their time.
The curriculum runs from 3 to 18 years, teaches children to read in 15 weeks and rewards students for successful outcomes.
A family atmosphere is established in the classrooms, called learning centres, where students, of varied ages, work in “offices” to achieve their goals. They are aided by supervisors and monitors who give support when it is requested.
Students are tested regularly on their acquisition of knowledge and to ensure that they are maintaining a standard of excellence in their output. Various motivational methods are in place to see that progress is maintained and developed.
Beyond the standard curriculum, one area where students extend a wide range of their talents further is the European Student Convention held annually at Millfield School in Somerset.
Here they compete with other like-minded students to achieve their best in academics, memory work, drama, oratory, music and sport. They also have a chance to exhibit their skills in art, craft, woodwork, metalwork, computer technology, photography and needlework.
If a high enough standard is achieved then students can be recommended to attend the International Convention in America, where they mix with several thousand other students from throughout the world.
This creates opportunities to make lasting friendships with international students who have similar backgrounds.
In the later years, the ICCE qualification covers the final accreditation of the student’s work. At the moment there are seven certificates which give students of all abilities the opportunities to be awarded a qualification.
The body which compares international qualifications, NARIC, has assessed the General and Advanced Certificates to be comparable to the Cambridge international O Level and A Level respectively.
Some ICCE graduate students have progressed to university, some to sixth form colleges and some to full and part-time employment. Others have opted for a gap year to consider their next career moves.
Most students who have graduated, have testified of the incredible benefits of the system and have proved their worth in colleges, universities and the workplace with their hardworking ethic, their diligence, perseverance, determination and integrity.
One of the main advantages of this programme of education is that it trains character, prepares students to manage relationships and how to handle people.
Yes, it is based on Christian principles and we regard the character of Jesus Christ to be paramount and we seek to be like Him.
We embrace all races, religions, majority and minority groups, and show them the love of God and extreme mercy.
The advantage of the individualised curriculum is that you don’t have to complete all your work by the ages of 16 or 18. You can extend your time and complete your qualifications when you are ready: this could be earlier too.
We have several students who have achieved doctorates, first class degrees and master’s degrees, but not all students are interested in higher education or are suited to it.
Whatever they go on to do, we have had huge amounts of positive feedback from students – who have praised the curriculum and teaching methods. They have credited it for developing their ability to study independently, plan and maximise their time and set goals.
Others have praised the broad selection of subject material which allows students to find their career path easily.
Overall, we want to ensure that students are being trained to make a positive impact on the environment and bring about change for the benefit of mankind.