Conference Papers

Catholic Education in Bangladesh: The Case of Congregation of Holy Cross, 1947-2016

The Congregation of Holy Cross, a Catholic religious order, has been working on evangelization and education in Bangladesh for more than 160 years. However, over the years particularly the period from 1947 to 2016, there have been many changes – internal and external – to Holy Cross itself and the socio-political and educational context of Bangladesh. Thus, this study addressed how the educational mission of Holy Cross has responded to the changes within Holy Cross and Catholic theology of mission amidst the political, social, educational shifts in Bangladesh over the last sixty years (1947-2016). It examined how the transformation has shaped their educational mission in Bangladesh. The study took place in a historical context that is interpretive histories. Moreover, it was conducted following the historical case (multiple cases) study method. The proposed research was based primarily on examination of written documents – primary and secondary – and field work data involving oral history interviews of Holy Cross personnel, both local and foreign, who are/were involved either in the teaching or administration of the educational institutions selected as case studies.
The study found that Holy Cross education had gone through significant changes because of the political and educational shifts in Bangladesh over the period. While the educational missions were formulated, to some extent, in dialogue with the government, the study showed that with regards to educational policies and strategies Holy Cross missionaries had a different approach from them. This had resulted in a tension between the Congregation of Holy Cross and the government over the admission policy of its schools and colleges in recent years.
The research findings illustrate that they are quite successful in missions of ‘raising up native clergies’ and establishing a local church, which were considered as their fundamental purpose in founding educational institutions. However, the ways were not always easy for them, and they had to negotiate with the government over the years. Currently, they are facing the same challenge. They have also a distinctive educational aim at the nation’s elite education both through English and Bengali medium and villages’ primary and secondary level education in the vernacular. While the former was primarily motivated by the idea of ‘diffusion of Christian ideals’ and the latter aimed at promoting and empowering the converted Catholic Christians through education. This study argues the latter was more successful in terms of their long term educational missions.

Md Shaikh, F. (2017) 'Catholic Education in Bangladesh: The Case of Congregation of Holy Cross, 1947-2016', paper presented to The 13th Annual Conference of the British Education Studies Association (BESA), 29–30 June, viewed 13 August 2020, <>