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Thread: How does religious education work in state schools in Australia?

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    Default How does religious education work in state schools in Australia?

    Another thread has made me realize that I have no idea about how religious education works in state schools here, and therefore would not even know the appropriate questions to ask a school.

    (I grew up in the UK, went to a catholic primary school, but majority of secondary school went to non-religious school, and my mum is a catholic (of the type who likes to go to church but seems not to hold with many catholic beliefs), but if I had to class myself as anything I would say agnostic, and I didn't believe in God from quite an early age (while still at catholic primary school))

    The other thread seemed to suggest that there is some sort of opt in and opt out thing? and that religious education is not always taught by teachers? (At secondary we had a specific RE teacher, who taught us about a lots of different religions, but they were a teacher who specialized in RE, in primary school all I really remember is learning and doing activities around a few bible stories but always taught by class teacher (not all were catholic))

    Is there a website that someone can PM me which explains how it works - I tried Google but apart from learning that is something is in the news at the moment, wasn't sure what would be the best site to look at.

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    Default Re: How does religious education work in state schools in Australia?

    I don't know a site (actually I might, hang on) but will give you the down low now
    In state primary school, most schools have a religious education class run once a week. You generally opt out bit some schools opt in. These classes are Christian religious education only (Anglican in style from recollection) and are taught by volunteers who have some training (hours). If a child opts out they cannot have education during the religious class time so not to disadvantage the kids attending RE. In state high schools there is no RE of any sort.

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    Default Re: How does religious education work in state schools in Australia?

    This site has a bias against RE but still should give you the info you need
    http://religionsinschool.com

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    Default Re: How does religious education work in state schools in Australia?

    In Victoria:
    Special Religious Instruction

    Please note it is SRI, Special Religious Instruction as opposed to RE, Religius Education. I find it i best to use proper terms so as not to confuse the things (The RE I did in YR 12 was an entirely different beast to what is happening in public primary school in Vic)

    ETA wrong word

  5. #5

    Default Re: How does religious education work in state schools in Australia?

    Not sure about Vic but in NSW it doesn't have to be Christian - as long as a church (or mosque etc) provides a suitable volunteer and as long as there is he desire from parents, other faiths can be part of it. Commonly you'll find Protestant and Catholic options.

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    Default Re: How does religious education work in state schools in Australia?

    Thanks all, what a strange system. One of the links gives a map so I can already see what the intended school for my two does, in terms of SRI.

    I agree about the terminology Astrid, I didn't realize about the terminology so thanks for the link, until today I had never heard of SRI :-)

    So if children opt-out what do they do during the time that is spent being taught the SRI?

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    Default Re: How does religious education work in state schools in Australia?

    Surprised it is the same with SRI in Vic it doesn't have to be a Christian based church it can be any recognised religion that approaches the school wanting to teach their religion.

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    Default Re: How does religious education work in state schools in Australia?

    In Victoria they have changed it to an opt in system which means that SRI is now "taught" in fewer schools. It is mainly done by ACCESS ministries which are an evangelical Christian group that gave a contract to do this with the government. They are not teachers, the curriculum is not assessed by the dept if education. It is up to the individual principal of the school to say if they will offer SRI or not at the school. Students who do not opt in when it is offered aren't allowed to do any other classes, generally they read or play games.

    Especially as you are not religious I would encourage you to look into it further. FIRIS (fairness in religion in schools) is a useful organisation for information.

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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by black_rose View Post
    Surprised it is the same with SRI in Vic it doesn't have to be a Christian based church it can be any recognised religion that approaches the school wanting to teach their religion.
    That is not how I understand it.

    Here is the info from the Vic education website:
    Accredited and approved instructors

    Only accredited instructors, approved by the Minister for Education may deliver SRI in Victorian government schools.

    Accreditation includes a Working with Children Check, registration, training, minimum suitability standards for persons who work or volunteer with children, and Ministerial approval.

    The Department engages two major organisations to administer the accreditation and approval of religious instructors. They are (1) ACCESS Ministries, and (2) World Conference of Religions for Peace.

    ACCESS Ministries’ religious instructors deliver Religion in Life® Christian Religious Education, which is an agreed syllabus representing 12 Christian denominations. Students receiving such instruction are not to be grouped for SRI according to denomination, but taught in their usual classes.

    The World Conference of Religions for Peace (a non-government organisation associated with the United Nations to interface with the world’s faith communities), currently administers the accreditation and approval process for religious instructors in other recognised faiths including Bahá’í, Buddhism, Sikhism, Hinduism and Orthodox Christianity.

    The Catholic Education Office/Diocese and United Jewish Education Board also accredit religious instructors in their respective faiths.

    Note: When parents request SRI in a faith that is not available at the school, the principal should advise them that such instruction can only be scheduled if the particular religious group provides an accredited instructor who is approved by the Minister for Education.

    Parents may withdraw consent for their child’s participation in SRI by notifying the principal in writing. It is not necessary to renew or withdraw consent each year.

    At the start of each year ACCESS Ministries provides schools with the names of accredited instructors allocated to them. Schools are also informed of changes to instructors during the year. This information should be retained on file at the school.
    As Nai as said, Volunteers mostly come via Access Ministries, so one view of Christianity.

    There is also the issue that not all schools have been 100% clear in the change to Opt In and what it is about. I know I had to greatly question the school, as at the time they still referred to it a RE. Even now, the odd communication may say SRI, but a lot of the time they fall back to using RE and just confusing the situation.

    Quote Originally Posted by wysiwyg View Post
    So if children opt-out what do they do during the time that is spent being taught the SRI?
    From the site:
    ensure that students who do not attend SRI are appropriately supervised by teachers, and engaged in positive, independent learning such as self-study, including revision or other activities, for example, community service, peer mentoring, participation in clubs or instruction in areas outside the core curriculum
    ensure core curriculum is not delivered to non-attendees during the period of SRI
    Depends on the school. Some kids still sit in the room, but up the back. Sometimes on computers with headphones. At our school, it depends on the grade. The foundation students move across to the other foundation room. The older grades seem to go into a side room, with windows, so the teacher "supervises" them whilst still staying in the room with the volunteer. When my eldest was first enrolled I spoke to both the principal and the teacher to find out what they did and to point out that to us "opt out" does not mean in the same room.

    I have read of students being sat in hallways, but this was before changes were made in relation to what they were allowed to do, so not sure if it happens now.

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    Default Re: How does religious education work in state schools in Australia?

    Quote Originally Posted by Nai View Post
    Especially as you are not religious I would encourage you to look into it further. FIRIS (fairness in religion in schools) is a useful organization for information.
    Thanks I will - you learn something new everyday. I really know very little about religion in Australia full stop. Before reading the other thread and starting this one, and reading articles in the news, I would have thought "ahh what harm can it do", but now I am more along the lines of I think some downtime and playing games or reading would be more beneficial. If I was planning on sending the kids to a religious school I think I would feel more confident about what would be delivered at the religious school, than this SRI system in state schools. Really I am a bit puzzled about why a school would bother with it?

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    Default Re: How does religious education work in state schools in Australia?

    I am struggling with this ATM (thinking it was my thread you are refering to? ) At DS's school- it isn't his normal teachers but two other people who come into the school to do the Religious Classes- I know at primary school when i was a kid it was the same- we had Scripture, it was taught by a person who wasn't our normal teacher, and there was kids who went to the library and didn't attend.
    I was under the impression it was more of a general class- but after two weeks my 5 yo DS is coming home with a few little tid bits that have me slightly worried that it isn't quite as open minded teaching as I would have hoped. I was actually going to mention in your other thread about what to ask a principal - re religious teachings at school. I think we as a society are kind of at a brink where what has been done in the past for many years (it was almost 20 years ago i was in my first scripture class) is slowly becoming defunct. It hasn't changed with societies views yet, which I think it shold be. But its still working while most mums and dads just let it go but would rather it be a bit different. ITMS???? Hmmm.. maybe I should look into changing the public school curriculum on religious education...

  12. #12

    Default Re: How does religious education work in state schools in Australia?

    FWIW I used to teach SRE (as it's called in NSW). My intention wasn't to brainwash kids or tell them they are going to hell or anything like that. It was to teach them some Bible stories, show them that someone cared enough about them to come to school each week and teach them, to give them an enjoyable 30 mins, to tell them that God loves them and they are incredibly valuable and have great worth.

    I think most volunteers would be along the same lines as me. Definitely you get a few who don't have a good perspective on what they are there for and what is appropriate to say, but for the most part the volunteers are really normal people who are sincerely trying to do the right thing by these kids.

    Interestingly, I think there is value in learning Bible stories, as they are part of our cultural library. When I asked kids to draw pictures that represented Easter, I got more than a couple of Christmas trees! I also think that other religions should be able to offer SRE but if they don't then it generally means there were no volunteers available. I also support the right of parents to not have their children participate.

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    Default Re: How does religious education work in state schools in Austral

    Religious *Education* is a qualified teacher, teaching kids about the different religions that exist in the world. It is not biased and does not prefer any one religion over any other. It is much like geography or social studies - it is part of the regular curriculum and it teaches what is observable and generally accepted as fact. Teachers do not bribe students with chocolates or lollies.

    Special Religious Instruction is quite different. It is a volunteer from (almost always) a Christian church, and it tells kids that Christianity is true, and that God does exist. The volunteer is almost never a qualified teacher, and often bribes students to give the "right" answer with lollies or other presents like stickers.

    In case it's not obvious, I'm very comfortable with Religious Education, and very much opposed to SRI. :-)
    Last edited by tigger; November 19th, 2014 at 06:40 PM. Reason: clarity

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    Default Re: How does religious education work in state schools in Austral

    Gee, my daughter has had seven years of SRI and has never been 'bribed' to answer a question in a certain way. Should I complain?

  15. #15

    Default Re: How does religious education work in state schools in Austral

    In NSW they have ethics as an option which is a non-religious class.
    Epacris (ex-mod) is a volunteer ethics teacher.
    The children who don't do religion or ethics are not allowed to do much learning because it would disadvantage the scripture kids.

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    Default Re: How does religious education work in state schools in Austral

    I think ethics would be an ideal option for our school. The school we have chosen is a public school and offers religion as an optional class, which you can either sign up for not. Due to reasons I am unsure of at this point, not all grades can attend every year. It is a very small school which may have something to do with it.

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    Default Re: How does religious education work in state schools in Austral

    My youngest DD is now in Grade 3, she did 3 years of RE, only because my DH thought that she should have some sort of exposure to religion. I on the other hand, didn't care either way. She learnt a few things, including the lords prayer! Fine, no issue with that. She came home sprouting a few biblical messages, fine, whatever makes her happy. She learnt about a lot of different religions and other cultural celebrations, which she found really interesting! It wasn't until this year when we got a long letter home from the school about SRI and the access ministries taking over and us having to choose the exact faith that she could learn about. I don't want my child to have to choose her faith now! She should be free to choose when she is old enough to understand it more clearly. I don't like the idea of their teachings, there was a show on tv a while ago about it, and the people teaching it, I decided then that it wasn't for my child!
    So now, she goes into the computer room, along with almost all of her class, they play on the computers, for the time allocated. She seems more than happy to be doing that, otherwise she will use the time to finish off something that she hasn't finished earlier. No dramas!

  18. #18

    Default Re: How does religious education work in state schools in Austral

    Quote Originally Posted by ~Hestia~ View Post
    I think ethics would be an ideal option for our school.
    If you have the time you could volunteer as the ethics teacher. you will have to get your blue card and do the course and then they let you lose.


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