Theologian urges more school ethics

Filed in Latest News by on August 26, 2013

vardyAustralian schools should place more emphasis on teaching religious values and education so students can be exposed to fundamental questions about the meaning of life, visiting British author and theologian Peter Vardy says.

Dr Vardy, who was in Perth this week to talk to Year 11 and 12 students at an ethics conference hosted by St Hilda’s Anglican School for Girls, said philosophy and ethics should be compulsory for all students, including rigorous study of religious issues.

“I would like to see mandatory the teaching of ethics and philosophy and my ideal would be to extend that to look at religious issues, but not in order to indoctrinate,” he said. “Religious education is about helping people to engage at a deep level, to be critical of their own views.”


Dr Vardy said Australian schools avoided religion because of laws which stipulated that public schools had to be secular.

“In Australia, the legacy of your history means that religious and ethical issues aren’t dealt with in schools,” he said.

“I totally respect that. But what you miss out on is the ability of kids to address fundamental issues about meaning, the nature of reality, value and religion.”

He said private schools had more scope to teach religion and values, but a lack of adequate teacher training meant few teachers were qualified to teach it at a high academic level. Most private schools in WA offer religion and life as an optional senior school subject, though it is compulsory in Catholic schools. Dr Vardy said religious and values education was mandatory in British schools for students up to age 16, and it had been the fastest growing academic subject in the past 15 years. British schools offered an open-minded academic approach which allowed students who were avowed atheists to get A grades if they could structure a good argument. He said the national curriculum being rolled out to schools across Australia had failed because it included little reference to ethical issues.

“I see more and more Australian education is utilitarian based, about getting through exams in order to prepare people for jobs,” he said.

“We need Australians who are the finest scientists in the world, but we also need people who are ethically informed and that’s a vacuum which I don’t think is being addressed.”

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