Report recommends more teaching of Religion in Australian Schools

Filed in Latest News by on January 21, 2014

Education reviewer Kevin Donnelly makes case for more religion to be taught in public schools

abc_australia (1)By Andrew Greene, ABC News

Updated Sun 12 Jan 2014, 10:59am AEDT

There should be more religious education in Australian schools, says one of the men tasked with reviewing the national curriculum.

Former teacher and ex-Liberal Party staffer Kevin Donnelly says Australian education has become too secular, and the federation’s Judeo-Christian heritage should be better reflected in the curriculum.

The review was announced yesterday by Federal Education Minister Christopher Pyne, after concerns the curriculum had become too left-leaning and was failing students.

Mr Donnelly says religion does not have enough of a presence in Australia’s “very secular curriculum”, and that it needs to be taught “more effectively”.

“I’m not saying we should preach to everyone, but I would argue that the great religions of the world – whether it’s Islam, whether it’s Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism – they should be taught over the compulsory years of school,” he said.

National curriculum

  • The current curriculum was approved by federal, state and territory education ministers in December 2010.
  • Content was finalised in 2011.
  • Governs teaching in schools all the way up to year 12.
  • The curriculum is due to be adopted in New South Wales this year.
  • Other states, including South Australia and Queensland, have already adopted staged implementation.
  • The curriculum currently covers English, maths, science, geography and history.
  • Examples and more information can be found on the curriculum’s website.


“When you look at Parliaments around Australia – they all begin with the Lord’s prayer. If you look at our constitution, the preamble is about God.

“You can’t airbrush that from history – it has to be recognised.”

Mr Donnelly is also making the argument that Australian education has lurched to the “cultural left”.

“The curriculum, as with most of the Western nations – England, America, New Zealand, Australia, over the last 20 or so years – they’ve adopted a curriculum that I call progressive, new age. On the left side, if you like,” he said.

“I have argued in the past, as Minister Pyne has, that we need to get the balance right in terms of Asia, Indigenous, sustainability – that’s OK – but the pendulum has swung too far towards what I call a politically correct view.

“So we do need to emphasise the fact that we are a Western, liberal, democratic nation.”

Religion should be left at home: NSW P&C

Parents’ and citizens’ associations are rejecting Mr Donnelly’s push for more religious education, saying religious studies belong in the home, not in public schools.

Rachel Snowdon from the New South Wales Federation of Parents and Citizens says Australian public schools should be secular institutions.

“In a society where less than 30 per cent of members have a defined religion, it’s a little bit disingenuous to then make children learn religious studies in schools,” she said.

“It should be a family decision and schools shouldn’t have that place.”


The Queensland Parents and Citizens’ Association says the decision on how much religion is taught in schools should not be made on a national level.

“Our position on teaching religion through religious instruction or religious education in school is one of making, or putting that decision in the hands of the local school, the local community and then also putting it in the hands of individuals to decide whether their children take part in those lessons,” said association chief executive Peter Levett.

Rationalist Society of Australia president Meredith Doig says a curriculum instructing a particular form of religion is indoctrination.

“Most people are in favour of general religious education,” she said.

“What we’re not in favour of is frankly the indoctrination of young children into a particular doctrine of religion and that’s what’s happening in a number of government schools in Victoria, but elsewhere as well.”

Pyne putting ‘hard-right fingerprints’ on education

The Coalition promised a thorough review of the curriculum during the election campaign, arguing that Labor had politicised school teaching material to an unacceptable degree.

Mr Pyne has said he wants the curriculum review, which will also be undertaken by University of Queensland Professor Ken Wiltshire, to be “balanced and fair”.

However, the announcement has drawn widespread criticism and prompted warnings of a “return to the culture wars” in Australian education.

Tasmanian Education Minister Nick McKim has lashed out at the review, saying both Mr Donnelly and Professor Wiltshire are on the record as supporting compulsory religious education in schools.

Mr McKim says education is a state responsibility and he will fight any attempt from Mr Pyne to put his “hard-right fingerprints all over the curriculum”.

“We certainly reserve the right not to accept that curriculum because ultimately the states run education, not the feds,” he said.

Mr Pyne says he would like the changes implemented in 2015.

Mixed reaction from Christian education groups

Mark Rix from the Catholic Education Office, the body that represents Catholic schools in New South Wales, says there is already a substantial focus on religion in the education system.

“We certainly have no objection to having a look at the way in which various religions and religious perspective have been part of a range of different subjects, outside of studies of religion itself, but it isn’t something which we looked in the first instance [and] we thought there was a dramatic need,” he said.

But Christian Schools Australia says Australia’s Judeo-Christian heritage cannot be ignored.

“We need to make sure that in telling the story of Australia through history and various other curricula, we’re not airbrushing the role Christians have played out of that story, it’s just anathema to the whole idea of history that you don’t tell part of the story in favour of another – that would be indoctrination,” he said.


First posted Sat 11 Jan 2014, 12:01pm AEDT

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