Fr. K J Thomas S.J.
The Jesuit management strenuously tries to implement the best that is found in Education in the lines of Characteristics. From the time of St Ignatius Loyola, the Founder of Jesuits, education was given primary importance. Incidentally the Society of Jesus is a Christian Religious Order founded by Ignatius of Loyola in 1540. It has been keenly active in the field of Education throughout the world since its origin. The Jesuits are responsible for nearly 3897 Educational institutions spread in 96 countries.
Historically, Ignatius of Loyola sent his greatest son, Francis Xavier in 1542 to India. Xavier was a zealous 'missionary on the move'. He worked in India for 10 years, from 1542 to 1552.
Perhaps Jesuits impart the best-known education in India. The Jesuit educational initiative is the most extensive private network in the world today. They conduct not less than 62 university colleges, 18 institutes of business administration and 200 high schools spread throughout the country, almost all of them among its most reputed In them, more than 4,00,000 students belonging to every religious, linguistic and socio-economic group receive their education.
The Ratio Studiorum or Guide to Education produced by the Jesuits at the end of the 16th century remains an educational classic down to our day.
Jesuit educational methods derive directly from the order's own spirit. First, there is a willingness to use any branch of human knowledge, modern languages, philosophy, theology, medicine, law, media and every branch of science and technology — nothing is taboo in Jesuit education. Secondly, there is the stress on character formation and discipline combined with the development of freedom. Next is the continual drive towards self-improvement, by stretching talents and abilities in every field as far as they can go. No Jesuit education is complete without attention to the development of the moral and intellectual qualities of leadership: love for the country, integrity, human relations, understanding, hard work, organizational ability, cooperation and teamwork, and the power of expression in speech and writing. A Jesuit school or college aims to form "men and women for others" who will be agents of needed social change in their country. Jesuits view their work as "the service of faith in God and the promotion of Justice in the world". Special and preferential treatment is given to economically poor students in terms of financial and academic support.
Jesuit educational methods have been criticized by some as being too rigid, too stereotyped, and geared chiefly to the elite, intelligent and the determined, owing to the excessive stimulation of ambition. Modern Jesuits are probably more aware of their educational approaches in the context of the national and local socio-economic realities, and as a result there is a very different atmosphere prevailing in today's Jesuit institutions, at once more relaxed, less formal, more pluralistic and more tolerant of individual idiosyncrasies.
Another mark of the Jesuit is the way of combining stern inner discipline with maximum freedom for each individual member in external life and in the choice of methods. Finally, there is a certain typical thoroughness in all that is undertaken. These are expressed by the frequent use of the word "magis", "greater", "higher" in relation to the goals, the Jesuits, as individuals and as a community, strive for. Their age-old maxim is to aim at the greater good for the greater number of people. They must not forget to live up to that.