Religious Instruction in State Schools

Early Life Foundations supports the fact that religious expression and the freedom to follow a particular religion is one of the great aspects of living in a democracy. It is however, concerning and inappropriate, that some states and territories within Australia allow through their education Acts, specific religious groups to come into state, not religious schools, in teaching time as well as children's lunch and recess times, to explicitly instruct children in their own groups religious beliefs.

 

In Australia, we have a crowded curriculum; we do not currently have enough time to teach the essential elements of education.

However, most importantly, the use of education time, for individual religious groups to come and instruct their own religious beliefs, regardless of how well intentioned, good valued, useful (or useless) others may believe them to be, is totally inappropriate.

In addition, children's parents who may decide to opt their children out of these groups find that their children are not "allowed" to be taught anything because the other children receiving the religious instruction may miss out on learning!

So by some reversible inequity, the children who are not part of the religious instruction sessions are placed in a situation of inequity. Often sat in corridors with coloring in sheets or pseudo "project work", or personal work time". Or placed in another class, or sent to the library. Some children may find this a relief. Others find it embarrassing, ostracizing, annoying and time wasting. Some view it as similar to being the "naughty child in time out".

Some religious instructions classes seem to be prioritized over others. For example, in some schools the Christian children have their instruction during class time while the Jewish children have to have theirs at lunchtime (thus they not only miss out on class time but then miss out on their play and socialization)!

Issues of discrimination, issues of how to use school time, issues of inequity all abound here. However there is one major issue that our organization believes must be taken up by Government's.

Specific religious instruction by individual religious groups is not part of a child's education curriculum and should not be part of a school day or curriculum. It should stop immediately. That is not anti religion, or values, it is placing individual religious instruction outside state education and outside school hours.

Kathy Walker & Shona Bass