For many years Church leaders have considered ways to expand the educational opportunities of Church members throughout the world. In November 2015, the Church Board of Education approved the following policy: “The Church Educational System (CES) will seek to provide opportunities for education to the members of the Church wherever the Church is organized.”
The resulting CES Global Education Initiative is intended to help Church members throughout the world access educational opportunities where they live—through online courses, classes from local educational providers, and local gatherings for religious education and academic support.
Elder Kim B. Clark, Commissioner of Church Education, has given the following addresses about the CES Global Education Initiative to highlight its scope and vision:
- “The CES Global Education Initiative: The Lord’s System for Education in His Church” (Seminaries and Institutes of Religion Annual Training Broadcast, June 14, 2016), broadcasts.lds.org
- “The Lord’s Pattern” (Brigham Young University conference address, Aug. 22, 2016), speeches.byu.edu
The initiative is guided by experience gained from PathwayConnect, a Church educational program for students who would like to pursue higher education or improve their employment opportunities but require additional academic or vocational preparation.
Under the direction of priesthood leaders and supported by Church service missionaries and local volunteers, the CES Global Education Initiative will provide academic and religious instruction through a combination of online and local educational offerings with weekly in-person gatherings for religious education and academic coursework discussion. Instruction and academic support will be provided for secondary education students, higher education students, and English language learners.
Four guiding principles undergird the initiative:
- Education is a spiritual endeavor and is essential for building the kingdom of God and establishing Zion. Gatherings for religious instruction and a spiritual focus to online and academic learning are fundamental elements of the initiative.
- The initiative is a collaborative, system-wide effort involving all CES institutions. CES will also partner with Self-Reliance Services (SRS) and other Church departments as appropriate and will rely as much as possible on existing resources, courses, and programs.
- Online or local academic instruction is combined with local gatherings for religious instruction and academic support. Students will access academic instruction online from CES institutions or in person from local educational providers, including technical schools, colleges, and universities. Local gatherings will be held at institute buildings and chapels for religious education and academic support.
- Students access programs through local Church units, guided by priesthood leaders and supported by CES and SRS personnel, missionaries, and local Church members. Following this pattern ensures that Area Presidents, Area Seventies, stake presidents, bishops, and branch presidents make this initiative part of their ministry and that it takes place under the direction of priesthood authority.
In order to implement the CES Global Education Initiative programs in a measured manner, CES will work closely with the following Church leaders, who play an essential role in guiding and directing the implementation of these programs in the areas of the Church:
- The Church Board of Education
- The Presidency of the Seventy
- General Authority Seventies and Area Presidencies, working with Area Seventies
CES Global Education Initiative Offerings
Many of the CES Global Education Initiative offerings are already available. Some of the programs under development are being piloted on a limited basis and will be available for broader implementation in the future. As with all CES programs, CES leadership will work with local Church leaders and SRS managers to tailor the mix of certificate and skills-based training offerings to needs and opportunities within areas of the Church.
Specific opportunities will eventually include the following:
- Religious education
- Secondary education instruction and support
- English language instruction
- Professional Education
- Academic skills-based certificates
- Undergraduate degrees
- Graduate degrees
Tuition costs for CES Global Education Initiative programs will be made affordable to Church members around the world. CES will also work with SRS and the Perpetual Education Fund to help students gain access to the opportunities they need.