Religious Instruction (RI) will remain in Queensland’s public schools after an Education Department review, with the decision heralded as a win by supporters of the programme.
RI came under review in QLD in June this year after one Brisbane school principal axed RI over concerns teaching materials were evangelising students. The materials used in the school were from the ‘Connect’ programme, published by Youthworks Media (a Sydney Anglican ministry).
Karen Grenning from the Queensland Christian Religious Instruction Network welcomed the minister’s report today saying the Education Department had delivered a “well-researched and balanced report that will increase confidence in RI across Queensland.”
“We appreciate that RI remains in curriculum time.”
Grenning told Eternity that there were no changes to enrolment for RI, with the programme remaining opt-in for parents.
“Our research is that more than 70 per cent of QLD families choose that their children participate in Religious Instruction and we are grateful to the Minister that this freedom to choose is being respected,” said Grenning.
The review’s major focus was on claims the Connect RI materials included lessons that proselytised students. Announcing the review, Education Minister Kate Jones said “any materials found to be in breach of the policy will be removed from schools”. The QLD Department of Education defines ‘proselytising’ as “soliciting a student for a decision to change their religious affiliation.”
The Minister for Education said in a statement that “The department’s review found the vast majority of Connect materials are consistent with legislation and policy concerning religious instruction,” Ms Jones said.
It found direct quotes from the Bible “were not considered proselytising on the basis that parents of children attending RI have indicated an affiliation with Christianity or a desire for their child to learn about it.”
However it does make recommendations that the Connect publishers make amendments to the curriculum to address Departmental concerns over the age-appropriateness of lessons that reference animal sacrifice, murder and gender roles.
“There are some concepts and lessons within Connect that deal with issues such as sin and punishment that could potentially affect an at-risk student’s wellbeing if not delivered in a sensitive way,” the report reads.
“However, concepts such as sin, punishment, forgiveness, and “Jesus as a saviour” are at the core of Christianity and their removal from Christian RI lessons would significantly impact on the instruction being provided.
“RI programme developers, faith groups and RI instructors need to remain sensitive and vigilant to the circumstances of students and the impact specific discussions may have.”
Eternity understands that Youthworks have been working with the Department of Education in Queensland and issues identified in the review will be resolved in the next edition of the Connect materials.
The report also noted that the review of the Connect materials pointed to a “much broader issue” that legislation governing RI in Queensland does not enable centralised regulation of RI content and recommended the issue for further consideration.
Religious instruction was taken out of curriculum time in Victoria in 2015 after several reviews, and in NSW similar programmes are also under Department of Education review.More