Trend towards more money, less faith, at private schools

An opinion article in today's Sydney Morning Herald has highlighted the declining influence of religious faith in Australia's church-run schools.

The piece was waritten by Denis Fitzgerald, a former senior public servant in public education and a former Teachers Federation official, is now a public school teacher.

He quoted the the head of the Catholic Education Commission in Victoria, Susan Pascoe, who said: "Access to Catholic schooling for Catholic students from low-income families declined between 1996 and 2001 due to the rising costs of attending a Catholic school."

Fitzgerald also identifies an upward pressure on fees that is "shutting the door to the poor". He says this is backed up by an Australian National University analysis.

"More recent census figures confirm this trend. Increasingly, the private sector of education is about class and caste; it has scarcely much to do with religion anymore," he said.

"As the Herald reported last week, the Pope has stated that mainstream Christianity was dying more quickly in Australia than in any other country," he argued. "This is despite, or perhaps because of, the fact that we have the world's largest publicly funded private school system."

Fitzgerald quotes an Australian Catholic Record assertion that just 8% of 15-to 24-year-old Catholics regularly attend Mass. The 2004 National Church Life Survey noted a further decline in religious observance among Catholic and all major Protestant denominations. There is a clear correlation.

More money, less faith at private school (Sydney Morning Herald 25/1/06)

Another survey questions effectiveness of RE classes (CathNews 20/1/06)
Melbourne study testing Perth "irrelevant" finding (CathNews 9/1/06)
Study shows most Catholic students reject faith (CathNews 7/12/05)

Make faith schools open to all, urges adviser (London Telegraph 24/1/05)
Government Threatens to Stop School Selection on Religious Grounds (The Universe 24/1/06)

25 Jan 2006