Decoding Catholic school’s DNA

By Herman M. Lagon

In my twenty-one years as an educator of a sectarian school, I have journeyed through the evolving landscape of Catholic education, guided by the compass of my Jesuit formation. This has not been solitary. It has been shared with my family, deeply rooted in Catholic education, from my daughters’ and niece’s Jesuit formation as students and educators to my mother’s Hijas education. Just like many others, these experiences have shaped our collective understanding of faith that does justice, an Ignatian call that resonates deeply within us.

Introducing the Philippine Catholic Schools Standards (PCSS) by the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines (CEAP) marked a pivotal moment in this journey. It offered a framework to measure and articulate the essence of Catholic education, amidst the challenges posed by globalization, digital revolution, and rapid societal changes. This initiative was a call to align more closely with the foundational mission and identity of religious schools, considered alma mater by millions of Filipinos in the country.

The PCSS framework, inspired by the work of Loyola University professors Dr. Lorraine Ozar and Dr. Michael Boyle, encapsulates the essence of Catholic education through five domains: Catholic Identity and Mission, Leadership and Governance, Learner Development, Learning Environment, and Operational Vitality. These domains are not mere categories; they are the pillars upon which a genuinely Catholic education rests, ensuring that our schools are not just centers of learning but sanctuaries of faith.

The eight characteristics of Catholic education, as outlined by the PCSS, resonate with the Ignatian pedagogy that has been a hallmark of my professional and personal life for the past two decades. They highlight its foundation in Jesus Christ’s teachings, focusing on evangelization, community spirit, and a commitment to excellence. These traits underscore the importance of developing the whole individual, serving the Church and society, especially the poor, and integrating faith with life and culture. This approach ensures Catholic education transcends mere academic success, fostering a profound connection with the world through a Christian perspective.

The fifteen standards of Catholic education outline essential principles for Catholic schools to navigate modern educational challenges while preserving their religious essence. These standards promote innovative evangelization, support for the underprivileged, and leadership grounded in Christian ethics and professionalism, highlighting the importance of a strong Catholic identity, community engagement, and holistic development. They call for curricula and teaching methods that reflect Gospel values, fostering students’ spiritual growth and societal contribution. These standards also aim to transform Catholic schools into beacons of love and service, actively participating in societal betterment through faith-based education, emphasizing sustainable practices, continuous advancement, and building supportive networks.

As I transitioned to working in a state university, the principles encapsulated in the PCSS continued to guide my interactions with students, parents, faculty, and administrators. The commitment to incessantly trying to be good, right, true, kind, and beautiful for and with others amid one’s limitations and frailties remains a guiding star. The faith journey of millions like me, marked by daily attempts to live out these values, is a testament to the enduring impact of Catholic education.

The PCSS initiative has its challenges. Implementing a comprehensive framework that touches every aspect of school life requires dedication, creativity, and a willingness to adapt. However, the rewards of this endeavor are immeasurable. By aligning with the PCSS, the instrument accessible through the CEAP website, the hundreds of parochial, disocesan, or religious administered Catholic schools in the counry can ensure that they offer a kind of formation that is not only academically excellent but also spiritually enriching.

Reflecting on my path through Catholic education, am reminded by our deep-seated responsibility as educators. The PCSS is not merely a guideline, but a call to be more, to do more, for our students, our community, and our Church. It embodies a vision of education that is authentically Catholic and deeply transformative. With God’s grace, it inspires us to daily strive, not for perfection, but to humbly serve as a blessing to others.


Doc H fondly describes himself as a ‘student of and for life’ who, like many others, aspires to a life-giving and why-driven world that is grounded in social justice and the pursuit of happiness. His views herewith do not necessarily reflect those of the institutions he is employed or connected with.