Marriage, economics and the good news of Christian schools

Christian teachers are stumped on this one. There’s a glaring fact about their students in a report from 2020, for which they have no clear explanation. A fact that has significant economic implications for Australia. Yet even a brilliant school principal was stuck, who we’ll meet shortly.

Here’s the fact: Australians are more likely to get married, and stay married, if they received their education at a Christian school. 

It’s not a matter of the student being a Christian. Just that they were educated at a Christian school.

And it’s not a matter of opinion. It’s a matter of hard research. The Canadian research firm, Cardus, was invited to conduct their respected Cardus Education Survey here in Australia. With their research partners ORIMA, they surveyed a representative sample of 4,913 Australians, aged 25 to 39, and who had finished high school.

If you’re a supporter of the institution of marriage, you’ll be glad to know in this generation, from all kinds of schools, slightly over half have married, though 15% had become divorced at some point. So, Australia hasn’t given up on marriage yet.

It’s when the researchers ‘disaggregate’ their data things become interesting. It’s younger Australians from Christian schools who may be keeping the institution strong — with 53% reporting they have married and never divorced. 

Amongst Australians who went to Catholic, Government or the wealthier Independent schools — only 40% could say the same. 

So why is this happening? If anyone would know, it would be Felicity Marlow. She’s held positions as the Welfare Coordinator, the Director of Professional Learning and is now the Principal of Norwest Christian College in Sydney. The school took the top spot in the area in NAPLAN 2022.

“I don’t know exactly why,” was the Principal’s honest answer.

Stronger marriage rates at Christian schools don’t come from any strategy. There’s nothing in the mission statement of Norwest Christian College about marriage. That said, the School Principal does have a strong theory. 

“Perhaps it’s due to a focus on community and living in community and growing and nurturing relationships in our school environments. And we talk a lot to students about how they were made for relationship. They were made for relationship with God, and they were made for relationship with one another.”

This is where school ethos does come in. Norwest actively promotes the famous teaching of Christ on relationships, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and love your neighbour as yourself.”

It all sounds very positive. Even romantic. But longer-lasting marriages are also good news when it comes to hard economics. For apart from the love and fun, marriages are wealth generating institutions. 

In 2012, the Minister for Social Services, wrote a book about it and gave a landmark speech, which you can read here. The data he found showed positive economic benefits for adults and children, and for Australia as a nation. It shows that if our young people marry and stay married they will have “significantly higher levels of wealth.”

One news article found that, if it was possible to prevent family breakdown, we would bring  $14 billion back into our economy each year, purely on savings  in government assistance payments and court costs.

We may not know precisely why students from Christian schools are more likely to get married and stay married. But for their wellbeing, and the benefit for the nation, it’s a lovely glimmer of good news.