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Most people want choice for faith-based values education

An overwhelming majority of Australians believe parents should still have the choice of faith-based values education.

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In a survey conducted by McCrindle Research, only 16 per cent of Australians opposed giving parents a choice to send their children to faith-based values education, or scripture.

“That’s a lot of people who think this is an option that parents should have. And scripture in schools provides that option.”

“That’s a lot of people who think this is an option that parents should have. And scripture in schools provides that option,” says Murray Norman, spokesperson for the Inter-Church Commission on Religious Education in Schools (NSW) (known as ICCOREIS).

ICCOREIS, the group responsible for coordinating Christian religious education in NSW, commissioned the survey in an effort to discover why so many parents still opt to send their children to scripture classes despite the continued fall in the number of Australians professing a Christian faith.

Norman says the national survey of over 1000 people reveals that Australians still want faith values taught in schools. Current figures show 71 per cent of parents of primary school children in NSW opt in to scripture, called Special Religious Education (SRE) in the state. In Queensland, the number is also over 70 per cent of parents sending children to ‘religious instruction’ or RI in that state.

The survey also showed that 84 per cent of respondents believe that Christian heritage has been influential in shaping those values.

“One of the things we were keen to see is whether society thinks it’s important to teach values within the school contexts, and also whether people still see the influence of Christianity and our Christian heritage on those values,” says Murray Norman, spokesperson for ICCOREIS.

The survey found that 99 per cent of people believe it is important to teach values to Australian school students. Those “values” include the Australian Government’s values for Australian schooling, including care, compassion, doing your best, a fair go, freedom, integrity, respect, responsibility, understanding, tolerance and inclusion.

“We are aware of a minority voice that seeks to remove any form of spirituality and faith from schools, and remove the choice parents currently have, but that’s out of step with the values and wishes of Australian parents,” says Norman.

The survey also showed that 84 per cent of respondents believe that Christian heritage has been influential in shaping those values. Over 93 per cent of respondents said sport and popular culture/entertainment also played a role in shaping those values.

“It’s not that Christianity is the only thing that informs those values,” says Norman. “But is important to know that the community thinks Christianity is still important when you’re looking at values.”

Survey respondents came from a variety of spiritual backgrounds, with 45 per cent indicating a Christian (Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant) background and nearly 32 per cent saying they do not identify with any religion.

“We are aware of a minority voice that seeks to remove any form of spirituality and faith from schools, and remove the choice parents currently have, but that’s out of step with the values and wishes of Australian parents,” says Norman.

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