t the beginning of the current quinquennium the General Conference (GC) Education Department set four goals: (1) to strengthen Adventist mission and identity; (2) to strengthen leadership and boards; (3) to expand the capacity of all teachers to achieve the redemptive purposes of Adventist education; and (4) to disciple and nurture Adventist students in non-Adventist colleges and universities in partnership with other GC departments.
To achieve these goals, the Education Department operates several entities. The Adventist Accrediting Association surveys academic standards and other quality assurance measures and functions as the denominational accrediting agency of Adventist educational institutions at all levels, drawing on the expertise of hundreds of Adventist educators.
The department also operates the International Board of Education and the International Board of Ministerial/Theological Education to make certain new institutions of higher learning or new programs do not begin to operate without minimum academic, facility, financial, and other standards.
The Education Department is a global reference point to Adventist particulars and philosophy of education, and this objective is ensured through teacher conferences in the world divisions and the production of two publications: The Journal of Adventist Education (JAE) and Dialogue (for Adventist students in non-Adventist colleges and universities). See the Summer 2015 issue of JAE for education reports from all the divisions.
Accomplishments: Growth in Enrollment and the Flowering of Medical Education
The CognitiveGenesis Study (U.S., Canada, and Bermuda) demonstrated that students in Adventist primary and secondary schools have an academic advantage. In standardized tests students in Adventist schools outperformed the national average in every subject and for every grade level tested. The benefits of an Adventist education are cumulative: the longer students attend, the higher the academic performance compared to the national average in both achievement and cognitive ability. 1
Since the end of 2009 the total number of Adventist schools has registered an increase of 25 percent. By the end of 2013, 93,525 teachers were educating 1,809,855 students in 7,744 schools. Primary enrollment remained constant, tertiary increased 11 percent, and secondary increased 27 percent. 2
The number of medical schools doubled during the quinquennium from three to six, adding Benjamin S. Carson, Sr., School of Medicine, Babcock University, Nigeria (January 2012); School of Human Medicine, Peruvian Union University, Peru (August 2012); and Adventist University of the Philippines College of Medicine (August 2015).
Loma Linda University (LLU) School of Medicine is mentoring new medical programs. A six-day medical educator’s conference was held at LLU in 2014, coinciding with the 100th graduation from its School of Medicine: the Consortium of Adventist Medical Education Leaders (CAMEL), under the leadership of Dr. Daniel Giang. The growth of medical education has been achieved through a strong working relationship between the GC Education and the Health Ministries departments.
Opportunities: More Worldwide Programs in Medicine and Dentistry
A seventh medical school is currently planned for the East-Central Africa Division, and three new dental programs are in the pipeline for Chile, Brazil, and Argentina, eventually doubling the number of dental schools from three to six.Another area of opportunity is in Outer Mongolia. The Mongolia Mission in Ulaanbaatar has four churches and Tusgal Adventist School. A new grade level has been added each year, and the number of students will soon outgrow the building they now occupy in downtown Ulaanbaatar.
The Mongolia Mission has taken an approach to public campus ministry that should be replicated in other university towns: the church has built and is operating a dormitory for university students studying on secular campuses. The dormitory not only provides much-needed housing but also functions as a center for spiritual nurture, fellowship, and training for outreach. Outside the city, land has been purchased for what we hope will become a tertiary institution to educate Mongolian students for service in Outer and Inner Mongolia, as well as in China, since there is a high degree of Mongolian/Mandarin bilingualism among residents of Inner Mongolia.
Challenges: Managing the Growth
Managing the demand for Adventist education amid enrollment growth in most regions is a challenge. The single greatest need is qualified teachers “who love children and can see in them souls to be saved for the Master.” 3 The need is especially acute at the university level, where faculty in a wide range of disciplines must not only have doctoral degrees but integrate a biblical worldview into their teaching and research.
Affordability continues to be an issue. As schools grow in size and in the number and level of degrees they offer, the cost of an Adventist education rises. Work-study programs are insufficient or impractical for the many who would like to attend an Adventist school but do not have the funds to do so.
The number of campuses in urban centers has grown. While these attract larger nonresidential and graduate enrollments, including students of other faiths or of no faith at all, the challenge is to maintain an atmosphere of Adventist values, ethos, and sense of mission. Our ultimate purpose is not merely to operate schools but to foster balanced development that restores the image of God and prepares students for service in this life and the life to come. Urban campuses constitute both challenges and opportunities for ministry to the cities.
A major challenge in Adventist education is enrollment in higher education. Just under 75,000, or between 1 and 5 percent of eligible Adventist young people, attend an Adventist college or university. 4 Those outside the Adventist education system need spiritual nurture and robust apologetics as they deal with the intellectual challenges that arise in a secular environment. To inspire Adventist students to be disciples of Jesus and empower them to share the everlasting gospel on campus is the focus of a newly funded full-time position at the GC to coordinate public campus ministry. The Adventist Professional Network (apn.adventist.org) is another tool to maintain contact and to recruit future faculty.
The ultimate challenge faced by Adventist education today, however, continues to remain the same as it was when the Edenic school was founded: “The mind of man is [to be] brought into communion with the mind of God, the finite with the Infinite.” 5 Toward that goal, Adventist education at the General Conference continues to labor.
- Jerome Thayer and Elissa Kido, “CognitiveGenesis (CG): Assessing Academic Achievement and Cognitive Ability in Adventist Schools,” Journal of Research on Christian Education 21, no. 2 (2012): 99-115. Taylor and Francis Group, L.L.C., and Andrews University, www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10656219.2012.698826#preview.
- All data are from the Annual Statistical Reports for the years 2009 to 2013 (latest available), Office of Archives, Statistics and Research, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.
- Ellen G. White, Counsels to Parents, Teachers, and Students (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1913), p. 166.
- The end of 2013 membership was 18,143,745. Globally in 2013, 33.62 percent of surveyed church members were aged 16-30. This didn’t cover all 13 divisions, but it did include the largest, and it included NAD and TED, which have aging populations, as well as Africa and Latin America, which are very youthful. So it is likely representative.
- Ellen G. White, Education (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1903),p. 14.