Is Accelerated Christian Education Individualised?

By far the strongest claim ACE can make is that their students can work at their own speed. It was this aspect of the curriculum which appealed to me and my parents and ultimately led to my attending an ACE school for over three years.

It sounds fantastic. If you’re bright, you never have to be frustrated by waiting for the rest of the class to catch up, and if you have special educational needs, you don’t have to struggle. Perfect. Even the Guardian’s Natasha Walter, in a generally damning article on ACE, writes, “What is undeniably attractive about this curriculum – even for the sceptical observer – is the way that it moves at the same pace as the child. With ACE, children are assessed on entry and progress at their own speed, working through booklets and doing the tests at the end of each one before they can move on to the next.”

There’s only one problem: It isn’t true.

The ACE system is the opposite of individualised. Every student works through exactly the same material. Professor Harro Van Brummelen writes:

Further, the ACE program was an unbalanced one… The students were processed as identical, de-personalized cogs that could rotate at their own rate but must all go through exactly the same motions.

Curriculum: Implementation in Three Christian Schools. Trinity Western University, 1989.

The students, he adds, were treated as “pieces of machinery that could be processed identically and efficiently.” Dr. Milton Gaither, author of Homeschool: An American History, calls the PACEs “drill-and-kill worksheets.”

Gaither describes “the tedium endured by isolated children working through page after page of dreary worksheets.” The amount of repetition in some of the PACEs, particularly English, is simply soul-destroying. If you’re studying for the International Certificate of Christian Education (ICCE), you can’t miss any of it out either, because you need to complete every PACE after 1085 as credit towards graduation. The number of exercises that must be completed in order to guarantee mastery of a technique is the same regardless of the student’s ability. That is not individualisation.

ACE is based on the idea that a one-size-fits-all curriculum can work for every student. This is clearly ludicrous. Fleming and Hunt (1987) also observed that ACE’s units often repeat previously studied material. More damningly, Speck and Prideaux (1993) note that the PACEs’ mode of instruction makes no allowance for different individual learning styles.

To be fair, the ACE system is individualised in the sense that students work individually. Unfortunately, the best educational research on the subject indicates that this is a hideously ineffective way of teaching. ACE is not individualised in the sense of personalised, which is what is often inferred by the term. A good teacher in a reasonably sized class can implement effective differentiation techniques, and that is a far more effective way to meet individual student needs.



Fleming, D. and Hunt, T. (1987) The Word As Seen By Students in Acceleration Christian Education, Phi Delta Kappan, Vol. 68, No. 7, 518-523.

Speck, C. and Prideaux, D. (1993) Fundamentalist Education and Creation Science, Australian Journal of Education, Vol. 37, No. 3, 279-295.

About jonnyscaramanga

I grew up as a Christian fundamentalist in the UK. Now I am writing a book and blog about what that's like, and what fundamentalists believe.

Posted on May 14, 2012, in Accelerated Christian Education, Education, Faith Schools, Fundamentalism and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. ann veronica scaramanga

    Jonny Scaramanga’s Mum here. As a recovering fundamentalist myself, I never cease to be horrified at the information given in this blog, even though Jonny and I have discussed these matters often and in depth. I want it on record that I bitterly regret sending Jonny to an ACE school (the reasons for which are complex) and reject its teaching entirely. Jonny has done a magnificent job processing the experience and if this blog helps to expose the system and prevent what he suffered happening to other children, then it is a job well done.

  2. Mum, this is probably the best comment anyone will ever leave on my blog.

    • ashley haworth-roberts


      You may be interested in a ‘New Creationism’ blog post by YEC Paul Garner dated 15.5.12, which I reproduce below:

      “In April I led a group of home school families and their friends on a geological field trip to the Lake District of northwest England (see the photos below). Fortunately, the weather was good to us and we avoided the April showers! Here’s my report, just posted on the Biblical Creation Ministries website.

      The Lake District consists of a small dome of sedimentary and volcanic rocks of Ordovician and Silurian age, protruding from beneath a cover of younger Carboniferous and Permo-Triassic rocks. Visitors to the region can see some remarkably varied geology within a fairly small area.

      On our trip we had the opportunity to see rapidly deposited sediments of the Skiddaw Group, explosive volcanic rocks and mudflows belonging to the Borrowdale Volcanic Group, and quarry exposures of the cross-bedded Penrith Sandstone. We also examined the distinctive Shap Granite and its relationships with the surrounding rocks. In addition we thought about the effects of the ice age on the Lake District landscape. The evidence was placed in a creationist framework and shown to support the biblical record of a global Flood.

      One parent said: “With the benefits of clear explanations and well chosen sites to visit, it has aided my understanding of geology in the British Isles and shown how the data best supports short-time catastrophic models. I would warmly recommend this trip to anyone with an interest in biblical creation or geology from about 10 years up.”

      The field trip was such a success that we may well repeat it in the future. The good news is that you don’t have to be a home schooler to take part! If you, your family or your church would be interested in a trip of this kind, do let me know.”

      Ashley Haworth-Roberts
      PS One or two of your recent blogs have been mentioned at the online British Centre for Science Education Community Forum (in the Free For All section).

  3. They promote this system rather attractively that it makes you think ‘gosh’ this is an educational miracle until you delve into it and realize you’ve become stuck in a mire of utter confusion along with your happless children however thank the heavens for a gazillion selection of books and other sources of info to keep parents and children way ahead of the religious mumbo jumbo. I have noticed how a very small number of ACE students have graduated successfully on this system, if Ofsted were to vet this on a similar basis that mainstream schools are, they would have applied special measures.

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