Quality education at all levels: a commitment of the Madurai Jesuit Province

In the series following the recent meeting of Major Superiors of the Jesuit Conference of South Asia (JCSA), here is the last of three articles inviting us to discover the Province of Madurai, at the southern tip of India. After a historical overview and a look at the Jesuits’ social apostolate, here is a portrait of the Province’s commitments in the field of education. As in most Jesuit Provinces in India, educational institutions have been a major contribution of the Society of Jesus to civil society and the Church.

Primary and Secondary education: empowering the marginalized

Coming to Tamil Nadu with the intention of evangelizing, visionary French Jesuits chose to preach the Gospel through the apostolate of education. The first school was opened in 1844.

Empowering the marginalized through quality education is the mandate faithfully fulfilled by the schools in the Madurai Province. A few statistics: there are 14 primary and secondary schools catering for some 25,000 students, most of whom come from marginalized or rural communities. Six institutions also offer boarding facilities. 21% of the pupils are Catholic. Of the 895 staff members, 38 are Jesuits, representing 12% of the Province’s members.

All the Jesuit schools are government supported, offering completely free education mainly to the poor, with a special option and preference given to Dalits. Dalits are given preference in teachers’ appointments as well. The schools enjoy a good public reputation and are much sought after by people mainly for their discipline, character formation and good academic standards. Human excellence is the hallmark of the Jesuit institutions. As the profile of the students is mostly marginalized and first-generation learners, academic excellence is stressed and promoted. Several student activities ensure the overall human development of the students. Among them, it is worth mentioning LASAC (Leadership and Social Awareness Camp), an offshoot of Jesuit educational efforts promoting future enlightened leaders with social consciousness and commitment.


The practice of the Ignatian Examen, every day, is yet another hallmark of the schools. Professionally trained counsellors provide closer accompaniment to the slow learners, problematic and special-needs students. Ongoing in-service training programmes are organized throughout the year by the Jesuit Province and the schools themselves for the staff members. All this contributes to form young people who can respond to current challenges and emerging issues through concrete actions. It is worth mentioning that the alumni associations are very active. Many of the former students maintain and nurture the spirit of service to the suffering humanity. The alumni are also involved in infrastructure development, scholarship and student adoption programmes, and in other various ways in relationship with their profession.

This largely positive picture does not imply that Jesuit educational institutions do not face challenges. Being supported by government subsidies involves bureaucratic interference and controls that can reduce the unique and independent character of the schools. And after COVID, young people were found to be more addicted to social media and drugs than before, and their motivation and concentration had declined. The level of commitment of lay staff and even the professional expertise of Jesuit administrators also require ongoing attention.

All in all, it’s safe to say that Jesuit education in Madurai is a well-knit body with a common vision and mission. Its activities, collective reflection, decision and action plans strive to provide an all around development for the students, all for the Greater Glory of God.


Higher Education: a creative response to emerging challenges

Even before the university system was introduced in India, the French missionaries contemplated a university college in Madurai Province with the aim of “forming Catholic men who would become Jesuits in the future”. Madurai Province today runs three Arts and Science Colleges, two Business Schools and one College of Education.

To meet the emerging needs of society, the colleges have created pioneering programmes like Rural Development Science, Master of Computer Applications (MCA), Folklore, Visual Communication, Data Science, etc. The programmes are seen as models for sustainable development providing holistic formation to students, helping them become men and women for others.

The All India Catholic University Federation, a youth movement, originated in St Joseph’s College 99 years ago and has spread nationally. It aims at instilling critical thinking, which helps students work for structural changes in our fractured society. “Science and Humanities for People’s Development” (SHEPHERD), an extension programme, the first of its kind in India, envisages the application of the principles of science and humanities learnt in classroom to be used for the development of the poor in remote villages in order to serve as instruments for transformation of society. Other Jesuit colleges have followed suit successfully adopting similar extension programmes. Integral formation helps students to value life, celebrate diversity, respect other religions in our pluralist context and thus becoming witness to gospel values.

Access, equity, and excellence are the hallmarks of the Society of Jesus’ institutions. Challenged by the prophetic call after General Congregation 32, the Jesuits decided to follow the preferential option for the marginalized and to empower them. The new vision of education, promulgated by the Jesuit Madurai Province enabled the colleges to offer a meaningful and socially relevant curriculum. A loving labour of Jesuits and staff that does continue to bear fruit.

Article prepared with the collaboration of S.M. John Kennedy, SJ, and Xavier Arockiasamy, SJ.

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Posted by Communications Office - Editor in Curia Generalizia
Communications Office
The Communications Office of the General Curia publishes news of international scope on the central government of the Society of Jesus and on the commitments of the Jesuits and their partners. It also handles media relations.

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