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Issues with RE in state schools

Issues with RE in state schools

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Published by: blamer3388 on Apr 17, 2011
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Significant issues with Religious Education in government schools in Victoria: 1. Children are enrolled by default.

For example, on the bottom of page 5 of this particular 10 page primary school enrollment form, the parent is asked "Will the student participate in Religious Instruction classes?" http://www.middleparkps.vic.edu.au/download2.php?id=25&type=app&c=0 Asked in this way, the onus is on the parent being willing to answer "No" my child will not participate. The schools are not asking parents in a neutral and informative way. Even in schools using the proscribed GC 566 (Revised 2007) form – for example see page 12 of http://malvern-central.vic.edu.au/pdf/forms/enrolment_form_140510.pdf – the government directions reveal an obvious bias. Failure to return the form within 14 days will be regarded as consent for a student to receive special religious instruction in accordance with ACCESS Ministries’ agreed Christian syllabus. https://www.eduweb.vic.gov.au/edulibrary/public/curricman/support/3-22.pdf The above directive seems inconsistent with the Education Act, 2006: 1.2.2 Principles underlying the Government education and training system (2) All persons employed or engaged in the provision of Government education and training by the State or in the administration of Government education and training by the State must apply or have regard to the following principles— (a) Government schools— (i) will provide a secular education and will not promote any particular religious practice, denomination or sect http://www.legislation.vic.gov.au/Domino/Web_Notes/LDMS/PubStatbook.nsf/f932b66241ecf1b7ca256e92000e23b e/575C47EA02890DA4CA25717000217213/$FILE/06-024a.pdf 2. Schools cannot offer an alternative. A parent who opts-out by objecting in writing is agreeing that when RI is taking place, their child will be put aside for 30 minutes because "Secular instruction may not be timetabled while students from the class are attending special religious instruction" https://www.eduweb.vic.gov.au/edulibrary/public/curricman/support/3-22.pdf This segregation from the class is clearly unfair to the child and therefore coercive to the parent. 3. General Religious Education is inclusive and multicultural, Special Religious Instruction is not. Special religious instruction in government schools is authorised by Section 2.2.11 of the Education and Training Reform Act 2006. This Act supersedes legislation on Religious instruction contained in Section 23 of the Education Act 1958. A copy of the 2006 Act can be found at: http://www.education.vic.gov.au/about/directions/reviewleg.htm

In section 2.2.10(4) of the Act, general religious education is defined as ‘education about major forms of religious thought and expression characteristic of Australian society and other societies in the world.’ In section 2.2.11(5) of the Act, special religious instruction is defined as ‘instruction provided by churches and other religious groups and based on distinctive religious tenets and beliefs.’ https://www.eduweb.vic.gov.au/edulibrary/public/curricman/support/3-22.pdf I submit that this distinction is not public knowledge, and that if it was, then school communities would strongly preference the former over the latter – particularly if involving families of diverse backgrounds. 4. ACCESS Ministries have a monopoly over Special Religious Instruction. - they deliver 96% of SRI in state schools in Victoria, as quoted in The Age - the content they deliver is named Christian Religious Education - their employees / volunteers are not state school teachers "ACCESS ministries leads the Church in its mission to reach students and school communities in Victoria and beyond with the transforming love of God and His Son Jesus Christ." "Our vision is to reach every student in Victoria with the Gospel. Join the vision and help us transform this nation for God." http://www.accessministries.org.au/creteachers I submit that views and goals stated by this non-denominational organisation are not common knowledge, and are literally biblical and missionary. I understand that volunteers undertake 2 days training and are told not to evangelise during SRI. 5. Special Religious Instruction cannot be refused by the school community - currently around half Victoria’s public schools have SRI 2.2.11 Special religious instruction (1) Special religious instruction may be given in a Government school in accordance with this section.


Conclusion: In Victorian, religion classes in public schools are strongly biased towards Christianity. The current system is especially unfair for non-Christian minorities, who make up over 30% of Australian families according to the last Census. In a 21st century government school, religion ought to be delivered by a teacher answerable to the principal and the government – not some parallel hierarchy. An independent government review is urgently required. Specific Recommendations: 1. Wherever SRI is offered, alternatives ought to be offered for those not wishing to be instructed in Christianity by ACCESS Ministries. The directive from the Education Department must be reversed to allow secular instruction, which could include General Religious Education. 2. SRI ought to be opt-in, with full disclosure and without bias. The government ought to audit this. 3. SRI ought to only be delivered by qualified teachers – being accredited by ACCESS Ministries is not enough. 2.2.11 Special religious instruction (2) If special religious instruction is given in a Government school during the hours set apart for the instruction of the students— (a) the persons providing the special religious instruction must be persons who are accredited representatives of churches or other religious groups and who are approved by the Minister for the purpose; http://www.legislation.vic.gov.au/Domino/Web_Notes/LDMS/PubStatbook.nsf/f932b66241ecf1b7ca256e92000e23b e/575C47EA02890DA4CA25717000217213/$FILE/06-024a.pdf 4. Some thought ought to be given to moving SRI outside of normal school hours, so there is clear delineation between what public servants are directly accountable for and what schooling has been specially outsourced to an external service provider. 2.2.11 Special religious instruction (4) Nothing in this section prevents any Government school building from being used for any purpose on days other than school days or at hours on school days other than the hours set apart for the instruction of the students. http://www.legislation.vic.gov.au/Domino/Web_Notes/LDMS/PubStatbook.nsf/f932b66241ecf1b7ca256e92000e23b e/575C47EA02890DA4CA25717000217213/$FILE/06-024a.pdf

Please help restore the balance and protect Australians from undue religious interference. A recent article that covers the history of the Victorian Education Act can be found here: http://www.abc.net.au/religion/articles/2010/11/12/3064959.htm


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