Religions unite to make sure students get world class religious instruction

Queensland’s state school students will get access to improved religious instruction (RI) in school as a result of faith groups coming together to form a peak body for RI in Queensland’s state schools.

One of the new body’s first moves has been to commission a review by independent experts to make sure best practice is used across the state.

“The review is designed to ensure that, in 2019, Queensland schools have best-practice curriculum for every parent who chooses to have their child attend religious instruction,” David Baker, Moderator of the Uniting Church in Australia, Queensland Synod, said.

A Memorandum of Understanding has been signed that brings together 15 Christian groups with Queensland representatives from the Islamic, Jewish, Baha’i and Buddhist faiths under the name “Multi-Faiths RI Peak Body”.

The peak body has been formed to make sure that every student in Years 1-12 is given the opportunity to question and explore faith, values and their cultural expression in a safe and supportive environment.

The review will be carried out by local curriculum experts and will be overseen by international experts including chairperson Professor Zehavit Gross, UNESCO Chair for Human Values Education Tolerance and Peace, School of Education of Bar-Ilan University, Israel and panel members Emeritus Professor Suzanne D Rutland, OAM, and Dr Kate Bertam of Bertram Research and Development.

The review will assess curricula to ensure compliance with education legislation and policy.

Currently, religious instruction is available at 746 schools with principals required to assess and approve each religious instruction curriculum for use in schools in 2019.

Spokesperson for the Islamic Council of Queensland, Ali Kadri, said the peak body was acutely aware of the need to reduce workload and operational pressures faced by principals.

“It’s wonderful that different religions and faith groups in Queensland can work together for the good of everyone.” – Paul Myers

“The multi-faiths group has made representations to the Minister and the Department to advise them about the new Peak Body and the curricula best practice review,” Kadri said.

The peak body, as a bipartisan initiative, has briefed and been welcomed by both the state government and the opposition.

“We thank the government for their ongoing support of ongoing efforts to reduce the workload on principals and the education department so that there are no delays to religious instruction in Queensland schools next year,” Baker said.

Paul Myers, President of the Queensland Jewish Board of Deputies, hailed the peak body initiative as a fantastic development.

“It’s wonderful that different religions and faith groups in Queensland can work together for the good of everyone,” he said.

The volunteers in classrooms who teach RI also support the new body.

“The Queensland Christian RI Network, the grassroots network of Christian RI Instructors across the state, welcome the historic announcement of a Multi-Faiths Peak Body for RI in Queensland,” said Karen Grenning, spokesperson for QCRIN.

“RI is an important part of an inclusive, multi-cultural and holistic state education system. And we know that the majority of Queensland primary school parents value the choice they have to opt their children into RI, where it is on offer. It is important that these parents can have assurance that their children are receiving best practice RI in relation to curriculum and the training of RI Instructors.”

Education Minister Grace Grace welcomed the formation of the new body.

“I look forward to my department and the new peak body working together in the future,” she said.

Leader of the Opposition Deb Frecklington also welcomed the external curriculum review and the other initiatives of the peak body.

“The MOU is important to ensure that religious education is of as high as standard as possible in a multi-faith and multi-cultural society,” she said.