Religious instruction alternatives lack colour
Children in NSW state schools who do not attend religion classes by government-authorised Anglican, Catholic, Islamic and Buddhist instructors should study comparative religion rather than cleaning playgrounds, watching videos or colouring-in, a parents groups says.
The Sydney Morning Herald reports that education groups say better options should be offered for the growing number of students who choose not to attend.
Pupils who do not attend religious instruction are not allowed to take part in structured lessons and official guidelines say these students should instead take part in "self-initiated learning" such as homework or reading, the Herald says.
As a result, pupils had been carrying out activities such as cleaning up the playground, sitting outside the principal's office or colouring-in, NSW P&C Federation president Dianne Giblin said.
She said a non-theological study program for students who did not want to attend scripture would provide a meaningful alternative.
"We don't want them studying other people's religions, we want them to be studying their own values and beliefs," she told the Herald. "The other kids are off exploring their religious values. These children should be able to explore the values that they have. That can be done quite constructively."
But mother Victoria Spence said that a comparative study of religions would be a preferable alternative.
She said there would be plenty of support from parents for their children to attend a comparative religion class.
"Take a look at what's going on in the world now and all the issues around faith, religion, ideology and extremism," she said. "I believe we have a responsibility to this generation to furnish them with the ability to build relationships across different faiths. When are we going to teach them that?"
NSW Primary Principals Association president Geoff Scott suggested that civics and citizenship course might also be a practical study option.
"We would like to see the opportunity for children whose parents choose for them not to go to a particular religious education maybe do some general studies like religions in the world and the effect religion has had," he said.
Scripture drop-outs clean up playground (Sydney Morning Herald, 25/2/07)
LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
NSW Primary Principals' Association Inc.
Federation of Parents and Citizens' Associations NSW
26 Feb 2007