The goal of education is to prepare children for every aspect of life. A “good” Christian education, or, to use a buzzword, an “effective” Christian education, is holistic. Christian schools should prepare students for life (e.g., working a job, contributing to a community, making moral decisions, forming relationships, and growing spiritually).  

A holistic approach is foundational in Christian education, but we know that what makes an education effective can vary from one context to another, and it should. In a recent mixed-methods study, I invited teachers and administrators in Christian schools in Caribbean and Central American countries to rate research-based factors and respond to open-ended questions describing what makes their schools effective.   

An exciting trend surfaced during the study: the biblically focused factors of an effective education (e.g., Christlike instructors, discipleship groups) rose above the rest (e.g., basic resources, parental involvement). Biblically focused factors used in the survey came from ACSI’s research-based Flourishing School Culture Model. Survey responses from administrators and teachers validated the strong influence of these countercultural, Christian factors on student outcomes.  


Both when participants ranked the top five research-based influencers on student outcomes and when they responded to open-ended questions asking what they felt most impacted student outcomes, discipleship was one of the top responses. Discipleship can take many forms, but this study described it as intentional mentorship to lead others to Christ. We see some examples of how Jesus did this by growing active Christ followers (Matthew 28:16-20), sharing a lived example of how to honor God (Matthew 17:19-20), and helping his disciples wrestle through questions and interpersonal conflicts (Matthew 20:22-28).   

Questions for reflection: What does discipleship look like in your school? How might discipleship vary from context to context?  

Teachers Make a Difference  

In this study, administrators and teachers indicated that “Christlike instructors” are one of the most important influencers on how students do in school. Caring for and loving students as image bearers of Christ is what characterizes a Christlike instructor. 

For reflection: Brainstorm some recent examples of how teachers in your school extended Christlike love to students.  

Christian Community  

A Christian community cultivated within the school was the third-top contributor to student outcomes. Participants described a school culture of interdependence, kindness, and care. This countercultural atmosphere is illustrated in Acts 2, where Christ followers looked out for one another and shared their resources.  

Questions for reflection: How would students and families at your school describe your school’s culture?  

Supportive Administrators 

Administrators and teachers in the study identified administrative leadership as another significant factor impacting their schools’ effectiveness in Caribbean and Central American countries. Administrative leadership is an essential factor in the broader research, so it is unsurprising that it showed up here. As expressed by participants in the study, the relationship between administrators and teachers is valuable, and teachers need to feel that their administrators trust them to make wise decisions in their classrooms.  

Questions for reflection: How is your school caring for its teachers (e.g., asking for feedback, offering support, encouraging rest, etc.)?  


When asked what the most significant threats were to the effectiveness of their schools in Caribbean and Central American countries, teachers and administrators identified some reoccurring themes: prolonged effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, political insecurity (particularly in Haiti), and brain drain. Brain drain refers to a country’s loss of highly trained individuals, due to immigration (here it applies to teaching staff). 

This is a first glance into effective Christian education in the Caribbean and Central America. Factors specific to a Christian education may impact student outcomes most. A next step is for schools in these regions and others worldwide to evaluate how effective their programs are for the students they serve.  


About the Author:  

Ashley Brusma has a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership from Columbia International University. She is passionate about educating students in the Caribbean, specifically Haiti, where she lived and taught. Ashley teaches high school English with Sevenstar, a ministry of ACSI. She currently lives in South Carolina with her husband and two toddlers.  

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