Australians want faith values taught in schools

By Jude Hennessy, 22 June 2018


Australians want faith values taught in schools as evidenced by a new report that supports the work of Catechists

If you listen to some reports in the media, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Australians were a completely secular bunch that have turned their backs on religion and Christian values. The opposite is true according to new independent research released in May 2018.

The McCrindle Research titled Survey of values, education and faith in Australia—conducted using best practice methods—found that almost 99% of people believe it is important to teach values to Australian school students. Importantly, even though a large percentage of those surveyed did not identify with any religion or spiritual belief, 84% believe that Christian heritage has been influential in shaping the values that we teach children, with almost 60% believing this was “very” or “somewhat” influential.

The research also showed that parents overwhelmingly want the choice of faith-based values education, with only 16% of those surveyed opposed to giving parents a choice.

This is very validating for the wonderful work done by almost 5000 Catechists in Public schools throughout NSW and the ACT. It highlights the important and valid place of Special Religious Education as a choice for parents in public schools.

All Catholic dioceses across NSW are members of the Catholic Conference for Religious Education in State School (CCRESS), and our Bishop Brian Mascord, of the Diocese of Wollongong, has been given oversight of this group—given his strong background and experience in education.

The directors of the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine in NSW and ACT work together and alongside the NSW Department of Education, schools and other major religious traditions to ensure that SRE in public schools is something that parents can choose with confidence in the knowledge of sound curriculums, training and teaching practices.

In cooperation with the Inter Church Commission for Religious Education in Schools (ICCOREIS) and the All Faiths Special Religious Education (AFSRE) group, best practice support frameworks, networks and resources have been developed to ensure that SRE is celebrated as an essential strength of public schooling.

Spokesperson for Christian SRE in New South Wales, Murray Norman, says the survey figures represent what a majority of Australians are thinking and they “endorse the importance of spirituality and programs like SRE within education”.

“The overwhelming majority of parents want the choice of faith-based values to be taught to children, which is exactly what SRE does,” Murray said. Importantly, he revealed that when given the choice, most parents choose SRE, with current figures showing 71% of parents of primary school children in NSW opting-in to the program.

“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,” he said.

Murray explained that SRE supports the Australian Government’s values for Australian schooling, and said, “it is clear that Australians recognise the Christian and faith foundation of these values.”

Around 430,000 students attend SRE classes across NSW. The NSW Department of Education framework says, “Spiritual wellbeing relates to our sense of meaning and purpose.”

In each of our parishes, catechists do amazing work making Jesus known and loved each and every week in public schools. Take the time to stop and thank them for the vibrant, practical way they are witnesses to the Gospel message and its inherent values for living life well.

Jude Hennessy is the director of the Office of Renewal and Evangelisation for the Catholic Diocese of Wollongong.


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