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What are Some Types of Sectarian Schools?

Mary Elizabeth
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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A school that is associated with a particular faith or religion and/or is integrated with life in a faith community is one of the schools referred to as sectarian schools. Schools that do not meet this criterion are sometimes called secular schools. All public schools in the United States are secular schools, but there are many sectarian schools as well.

Sectarian schools promulgate the faith tradition or a belief system that they are associated with, as well as teaching academic subjects in the light of the faith’s values. There are three main faiths in the United States that have associated sectarian schools: Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.

Sometimes sectarian schools may be recognized by their names. Christian schools often have a saint’s name as part of their name, although be careful with schools like St. Lawrence University, named for its proximity to the St. Lawrence River. Jewish schools may be called yeshivas. And Islamic schools may be referred to as madrasahs, of which there are many English transliterations.

Sectarian schools differ in the ways that they incorporate faith-based concepts and values into their instruction. Christian school departments and course offering titles often look very much like a secular school when it comes to math, science, English, social studies, and foreign language. But there is often an extra department for religion and a yearly course in that subject area added onto the usual course load. Bible study is also often provided.

Jewish schools may integrate Jewish studies with English, math, science and history, sometimes called general studies. Alternatively, they may focus entirely on Jewish studies, which includes courses focused on the Talmud, Tanakh, Hebrew, and Jewish history.

Islamic schools may be attached to a mosque, but this is not always the case. While there are non-denominational Islamic schools, there are also schools identified with specific Islamic sects, including both traditional and Salafi Sunni, Shia or Jafari, and Sufi. Islamic sectarian schools often offer the same subjects as secular schools, with the addition of courses in the Quran, Islamic studies, and foreign languages that are not characteristically found in secular schools, for example, a choice of Arabic or Persian.

Practical Adult Insights is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary Elizabeth
By Mary Elizabeth , Writer
Passionate about reading, writing, and research, Mary Elizabeth is dedicated to correcting misinformation on the Internet. In addition to writing articles on art, literature, and music for Practical Adult Insights, Mary works as a teacher, composer, and author who has written books, study guides, and teaching materials. Mary has also created music composition content for Sibelius Software. She earned her B.A. from University of Chicago's writing program and an M.A. from the University of Vermont.

Discussion Comments

By burcinc — On Mar 31, 2011

@turkay1-- I think it was prohibited initially but then there was a lot of confusion and the Supreme Court sometimes voted in favor of it and sometimes not.

As far as I know, it is not prohibited as long as it fulfills some requirements. For example, a sectarian school may not use government funding to further religious causes or use funding in a way that only benefits students of a specific background. Because then, it would be like indoctrination. But if the school uses the funding for secular purposes and if the school is open to students of different backgrounds and beliefs, then it's fine.

Now there might be some different applications in different states. I'm not sure about that.

By candyquilt — On Mar 29, 2011

What does the establishment clause in the U.S. constitution say about funding sectarian schools?

I've found some contradicting information about this. Some sources say that it prohibits any government assistance to private and sectarian schools and others say that it allows some government funding. Which is right?

By SteamLouis — On Mar 26, 2011

A hot topic that differs between sectarian and secular schools is Creationism versus Evolution or Darwinism. I went to a secular school myself and only learned the evolutionist explanation for humanity. This was more than ten years ago.

The school district in which I was a student at that time is now caught up in arguments over whether both creationism and evolution should be taught in Science courses. Teachers are arguing that they cannot teach creationism in schools because this would be against the secularist public school system. Some parents who are religious, however, want their children to hear both explanations in school.

I think both students and parents are right in some ways. It's a problem if a student learns something at school which is against the beliefs of that family. Public schools have to be secular though because they have to teach students of many different backgrounds and cannot enforce sectarian beliefs on everyone. The best solution for parents who oppose a secular education is to send their kids to sectarian schools. But I also realize that they don't always have this opportunity. This is such a difficult issue but I hope that a solution can be found soon.

Mary Elizabeth

Mary Elizabeth


Passionate about reading, writing, and research, Mary Elizabeth is dedicated to correcting misinformation on the...
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