Govt may overhaul 'preachy' religion classes

Govt may overhaul

The proposal being considered by the Victorian Department of Education and Training (DET) and the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority (VCAA) would see the class taught by qualified teachers rather than volunteers.

As well as teaching students about Christianity, the class would also cover Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism.

Sandy Kouroupidis, executive officer of Faith Communities Council of Victoria, told The Age the proposal was to give a "more well-rounded view" of religion and its role in society to students, than is currently provided.

"It's about trying to give a more well-rounded view to schools," Kouroupidis said, adding that it would not be "preachy".

If approved, the proposal could supersede the current voluntary program, which has been slammed for “segregating” children based on religion.

In February, Professor Marion Maddox of Macquarie University told the ABC that religion no longer holds the mantle it used to in Australia’s schools and that it is undermining Australia's “pioneering system of free and secular school education”.

“We’ve forgotten that actually these things can have quite serious consequences for how people live their lives, how children form their attitudes, how they feel about one another growing up,” Maddox said, adding a “conversation about the quality and influence” of religious education in Australia is long overdue.

Rob Ward, spokesman for Access Ministries – which provides the majority of Special Religious Instruction volunteer-led classes in Victoria – said he supports the proposed class but questioned whether school teachers were best placed to teach religion.

"One of the benefits of the current system is that it is taught by people who actually believe in what they're saying," Ward said, adding there were "plenty of questions" about which religions could be included and how much space is allotted to them.

A spokesman for Victoria’s Education Minister, James Merlino, told The Age the department was “happy to consider any curriculum proposal from the department or the VCAA on its merits, and with a view to reinforcing values of inclusion and social cohesion in our school communities."