Parents support boost to status of religious ed

High school students hoping to attend university may be able to score marks through community services under a radical overhaul of WA's Catholic education system.

The Australian reports that community service activities such as charity fundraising, gardening or reading for the ill and elderly, can be assessed in the new subject Religion and Life, which will be compulsory for all upper school Catholic students from 2008.

Parent groups welcomed the move despite fears the new system will prompt high achieving students to leave the Catholic system so they can have greater subject choice.

Parents and Friends Federation of Western Australia president Helen Keogh said any move for students to be marked on community service would reinforce the Catholic ethos and was beneficial to Catholic students.

"If they weren't taught about religion, I'd be very upset," Ms Keogh said.

She said parents chose to send their children to Catholic schools in order for them to learn religious values and morals.

Students in many WA schools already undertake community service and from next year all students will have to complete 20 hours of community service in their final three years of high school.

Curriculum council policy manager Rosemary Naughton said the new religion syllabus was a work in progress but schools could decide if they wanted to include community service in the teaching of Religion and Life.

"They can do community service if they want to but there were concerns about mandating it," Ms Naughton said.

She said it would be difficult to mark one type of community service higher than another because they could differ greatly.

Ms Naughton said students sitting religion in a bid to gain a score towards university placement could be asked to explain why religion existed and how it functioned in society as well as demonstrating an understanding of religion's role in society.

Helping the Salvos could boost marks (The Australian 24/3/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Catholic Education Office - WA

WA Catholics 'disadvantaged' under schools RE plan (CathNews 23/3/06)
Study shows most Catholic students reject faith (CathNews 7/12/05)

24 Mar 2006