Draft letter to MPs on world-view education in State schools
World-view Education in State schools
Mr/Mrs/Ms … …, MP
Dear Mr, Mrs or M
May I visit you shortly to explain the Humanist Society of Victoria Incorporated view on religious instruction in State schools and ask you to promote a greater equality of opportunity and freedom of belief in Victorian schools than hitherto?
In particular I would ask you to try to amend the Education and Training Reform Act 2006 by (a) changing the wording in section 2.2.10, as shown in the Appendix, to permit regular schoolteachers to teach ‘world-view education’ and (b) by repealing 2.2.11 on special religious instruction entirely, as also shown in the Appendix.
In this way all major life philosophies in Australia would be taught impartially and inclusively by qualified schoolteachers.
On 20 February 2012, adjourned from 12 December 2011, the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal will begin hearing claims of discrimination in the administration of special religious instruction under section 2.2.11 of the Education and Training Reform Act 2006. Assuming that VCAT confirms the discrimination, changes will probably be necessary in the Act itself.
The Humanist Society would prefer a more secular approach to the teaching of religion than at present because the rapidly increasing number of people who reject religion altogether want education in the Government schools to be truly secular as it began in 1872. (Regular teachers should teach about the world’s life philosophies in an inclusive way rather than favour any one particular faith or philosophy!)
This position is supported by Census numbers in the community because if people, who answer “No religion’, are added together with (a) non-Protestant Christian religion practitioners and (b) those who decline to answer the Census question, one can estimate that up to 59%, ie a majority of the community would disapprove of the confessional way that Protestant religious doctrine, ethics, prayer and tenets of faith is taught to the children who do RI in Victoria’s schools by the Education Department’s financially contracted religion provider, ACCESS ministries.
Indeed change is already occurring. Recent statistics from the Victorian Department of Educational and Early Childhood Development show that special religious instruction (s 2.2.11) has declined from 47.31% to 40.91% of enrolled students over the past five years. In the Humanist view this has occurred without loss of imparting ethical values in schools. Schoolteachers are still teaching children to behave well and coaxing them get along with each other. Furthermore the national curriculum authority has commendably introduced the topic of ethical behaviour to be taught from a secular viewpoint throughout Australia so that there could be an overall increase in this aspect of teaching.
Repeal of section 2.2.11 would be consistent with practice in the Australian Capital Territory where religious bodies are required to organise their special instruction outside school hours, as indeed occurred in Victoria from 1872 to 1950 before changes to the Victorian Act occurred following sustained pressure from Protestant churches. However such religious instruction is legally possible in State schools after school hours since section 2.3 of the Education Act 2006 makes it possible for school councils to allocate or even rent out space outside school hours to any non-religious or religious body to present activities of interest to its supporters in the school.
I therefore want to ask of you, as a lawmaker:
(a) to promote the substituting of the phrase ‘world-view education’ instead of ‘general religious education’ in section 2.2.10 of the Act, to permit teaching about both non-religious and religious life philosophies by regularly trained schoolteachers, and
(b) to support repeal of section 2.2.11 of the Act entirely and thereby remove the activities of religious bodies from the school programme during regular school hours.
A suitable version of the amendments to the Act is shown in the Appendix below and I should like to discuss these matters with you personally,
(I should like to accompany constituents in visits to their Victorian MPs – Harry Gardner)
Appendix: Amend Act Sections 2.2.10 and 2.2.11, respectively, as highlighted below
2.2.10 Education in Government schools to be secular
(1) Education in Government schools must be secular and not promote any particular religious practice, denomination or sect.
(2) Sub-section (1) does not prevent the inclusion of world-view education in the curriculum of a Government school.
(3) A Government schoolteacher must not provide religious instruction other than the provision of world-view education in any Government school building.
(4) In this section world-view education means education about the major forms of religious and secular life philosophies thought and expression characteristic of Australian society and other societies in the world.
2.2.11 Special religious instruction – Please repeal this section in its entirety!