Factors influencing the development of the curriculum in Seventh-day Adventist schools in Australia and New Zealand, 1892-1977

At the time that Seventh-day Adventists opened their first school at St. Kilda Road, Melbourne, in 1892, to train ministers, they had no plans for the school system which emerged. However, as quickly as plans were formulated, other forces and influences came into play, shaping and moulding the curriculum. Sometimes the results were in harmony with the church philosophy, at other times the influencing factors opposed the church's educational philosophy. The first curriculum placed strong emphasis on Bible study and the 3Rs. This was expanded in line with a developing work/study ethic in the second school at Avondale in New South Wales, to include a strong industrial and manual training department. Subjects and methods were in harmony with the philosophical ideas of Ellen White, one of the founders of the school.

As parent pressure in the various churches demanded primary education for their children, Avondale was forced to introduce a teacher training programme to supply church school teachers. By 1910, the scope of the total curriculum had broadened to include a chain of primary schools and two junior boarding schools patterned on Avondale. The rapidly expanding system required supervision. This was provided by the Educational Secretary, L.A. Hoopes, who developed a church oriented curriculum for all schools from Western Australia to New Zealand.

By 1910, developments in state education departments began to exert pressures on Seventh-day Adventist schools. The primary schools in 1914 accepted the state courses but, following a leadership crisis in 1918, the training college at Avondale deflected the development of its curriculum from the state secondary courses and public examinations, to its own narrow interests. American leaders in the 1920s, endeavouring to return the college to what they believed Ellen White had proposed at its founding, further isolated the school from Australian conditions. Teachers at the intermediate schools at Carmel, Western Australia and Longburn, New Zealand, tended to follow the Avondale courses.

In the 1930s W.J. Gilson, an Australian, became the leading educational administrator. He introduced a unified curriculum in the primary schools and brought the Avondale curriculum into closer harmony with Australian conditions by relating course requirements to the Leaving Certificate standard. His greatest contribution, however, was to encourage the development of day high schools in most major centres. By 1940 this had created a major shift in the thinking of teachers, administrators and parents. Previously, because of the attitude of leaders to higher education, tertiary training was avoided and even frowned upon. However, as teachers needed university degrees to satisfy secondary registration requirements in some states, church leaders made plans to upgrade the Avondale curriculum.

During the 1950s and 1960s Adventist primary and secondary schools faced similar, problems to those found in state and catholic schools, but they did not join the radical moves to change curricula which developed in many states from 1967 onwards. Two of the junior boarding schools offered secondary courses. Longburn, in addition, was able to develop a primary teachers' course, that was recognised by the New Zealand Government. From the early 1950s Avondale offered an Arts degree course affiliated with an American college and a Science degree programme through the University of London with the emergence of Colleges of Advanced Education in Australia in the 1970s, Avondale was able finally to offer an Australian registered degree course.

The story of curriculum growth in Seventh-day Adventist schools as a whole reveals six important influences shaping curriculum change and development. These have been the church's philosophy, the effects of leadership, government requirements, social pressures, teachers - their methods and personal character qualities; and financial limitations. Over the eighty-five years surveyed in this thesis, the developing curriculum was subject to tension between state requirements and church objectives; between academic and practical strands; between American and Australian influences; between clerical administrators and educational practitioners; and between religious and vocational aims. The effect of each as it impinged on the development of the curriculum is examined. 
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Publication Date:
Wilfred G Litster
Order Information:
Copy available from Avondale College-Main [371.0716794 L71-1]
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Resource Type:
Papers & Plans
Resource Objective:
Kindergarten-Grade 12
Religious Origin:
Seventh-day Adventist