Philosophy and Mission
A worldview serves as a conceptual tool or framework for perceiving and interpreting reality, which then informs an organization’s philosophy, mission/vision, and goals. From its inception the Seventh-day Adventist Church has held a unique philosophy and mission of education.
Ellen G. White describes thiswhen she states, “In the highest sense the work of education and the work of redemption are one, for in education, as in redemption, ‘other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.’ ”1
The Spirit of Prophecy provides numerous books and general statements of educational philosophy that Adventists believe are inspired by God. These books provide such insight as: “The first great lesson in all education is to know and understand the will of God”;2 “Since God is the source of all true knowledge, it is, as we have seen, the first object of education to direct our minds to His own revelation of Himself”;3 and “Our institutions must be conducted on Christian principles if they would triumph over opposing obstacles.”4
Adventist education has progressed over the past 170 years based on biblical teachings and the writings of Ellen White, covering such philosophical concepts as the origins of the physical world, the nature of man, knowledge and truth, educational excellence, religion in education, and the integration of faith and learning.
The North American Division Office of Education provides this statement on Adventist education philosophy based on teachings from the Bible and Spirit of Prophecy:
“The Seventh-day Adventist Church recognizes God as the ultimate source of existence, truth, and power. In the beginning, God created in His image a perfect humanity, a perfection later marred by sin. Jesus came to earth to redeem fallen humanity and begin the work of restoring humans to God’s image. Adventist education seeks, through the power of the Holy Spirit, to restore human beings into the image of God as revealed by the life of Jesus Christ.
“The distinctive characteristics of the Adventist worldview, built around creation, the fall, redemption, and re-creation, are derived from the Bible and the inspired writings of Ellen G. White, and point to the redemptive aim of true education: to restore human beings into the image of their Maker. Adventist education seeks to develop a life of faith in God and respect for the dignity of all human beings; to build character akin to that of the Creator; to nurture thinkers rather than mere reflectors of others’ thoughts; to promote loving service rather than selfish ambition; to ensure maximum development of each individual’s potential; and to embrace all that is true, good, and beautiful.
“An education of this kind imparts far more than academic knowledge. It fosters a balanced development of the whole person—spiritual, physical, intellectual, and social-emotional—a process that spans a lifetime. Working together, homes, schools, and churches cooperate with divine agencies in preparing learners for responsible citizenship in this world and in the world to come.”5
Its Clear Purpose: The Why
All initiatives in developing and implementing curriculum, materials, and resources for teachers and learners seek to realize the redemptive aim of Adventist education. It is the goal of Adventist education, encompassing its schools, educators, and partner organizations, to instill hope and wholeness in the student’s life, learning, and educational journey. Adventist education exists to lead students to encounter Jesus, accept His gift of salvation, and follow Him.
Central to this ministry is a shared understanding of the biblical worldview that embraces God’s plan for humankind—creation, redemption, and re-creation. Ellen G. White clearly stated the purpose of Adventist education this way: “To restore in man the image of his Maker, to bring him back to the perfection in which he was created, to promote the development of body, mind, and soul, that the divine purpose in his creation might be realized—this was to be the work of redemption. This is the object of education, the great object of life.”6
Clearly identifying the importance of integrating Christian faith and values throughout the school program ensures that the best education is available to each learner. The high and holy aim of Adventist education is reflected in the following words: “True education means more than the pursual of a certain course of study. It means more than a preparation for the life that now is. It has to do with the whole being, and with the whole period of existence possible to man. It is the harmonious development of the physical, the mental, and the spiritual powers. It prepares the student for the joy of service in this world and for the higher joy of wider service in the world to come.”7
White also notes that “success in any line demands a definite aim. He who would achieve true success in life must keep steadily in view the aim worthy of his endeavor.”8 This shared biblical worldview, mission, and philosophy have guided Adventist education since its inception.
With this clear purpose at the forefront, educators across all levels of Adventist education experience inward conviction and empowerment to work together toward excellence through faith and service. Optimal student learning is achieved with distinction when there is an unwavering focus on the sacred purpose and the divine partnership in Adventist education.
In education few things remain constant. Change occurs and is occurring today. We are experiencing innovative changes that create sacred space with eternal results. It is a culture of continuous improvement in Adventist schools that brings students to faith in God, excellence in thought and expression, and commitment to Christian service.
Through an initiative termed Journey to Excellence 2.0 (J2E 2.0), Adventist education seeks to affirm core values, what is central to the ministry of education, and to create a common language and understanding. This understanding prepares learners for today’s workforce. It is also foundational in supporting Adventist faith and doctrine. In essence, Adventist education prepares our youth for employment both in and outside the church.
Adventist education offers academic excellence and innovative teaching and learning methodologies, but, unlike other private and public schools, it layers all learning with a distinct, biblical, Adventist worldview. Our students discover and explore ideas with wonder and questioning, with the Bible at the center. Learning occurs in classrooms that are safe and cooperative, that are focused on problem solving and on achievement based on agreed learning standards.
But alongside this, something else is in focus. We’re told that “character building is the most important work ever entrusted to human beings; and never before was its diligent study so important as now. Never was any previous generation called to meet issues so momentous; never before were young men and young women confronted by perils so great as confront them today.”9
The Cognitive Genesis study (2005) suggests that the greatest success in developing character is through a three-way partnership—parents, church, and the school. When biblical worldviews align, it’s here that God can do the miracle of shaping students’ lives for His purpose and glory.
While Adventist schools do have excellent curricula, it’s the teachers who are the living curriculum. They live and breathe their own walk with Jesus and ultimately teach from the overflow of their time with Him. Some say that genuine spirituality must be caught, not taught, and this is ever true with character development. However, it’s the teachers who live and speak about their love for Jesus who inspire students the most. When students see genuine spirituality modeled by three significant adults in their lives, they are much more likely to grow an authentic love for Jesus themselves. Teachers in Adventist schools often become one of those significant adults.
1 Ellen G. White, Education (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1903), p. 30.
2 Ellen G. White, Counsels to Parents, Teachers, and Students (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1913), p. 447.
3 E. G. White, Education, p. 16.
4 Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1948), vol. 6, pp. 145, 146.
6 E. G. White, Education, pp. 15, 16.
7 Ibid., p. 13.
8 Ibid., p. 262.
9 Ibid., p. 225.