The New Zealand Herald has recently highlighted the on-going debate about religious instruction in classes. Specifically, Bible in Schools.
Nicholas Jones, NZ Herald journalist, states that, “One in three state primary and intermediate schools teaches religious instruction, according to a survey which has triggered a debate over what children are being taught – and the value of it.
The survey, sent to more than 1800 schools, reveals 578 have religious instruction classes.
Of these, 56 say they do not know the content of those lessons.”
Please read his stories here and participate on survey if it is still active:
Following are some of the reader’s views submitted to the NZ Herald website:
• Richard Clark: “Religion is a personal choice – it has no place in state-funded schools. Simple really.”
• Christine Richardson: “While some kids already will get some of this education at home, some kids aren’t and this is a positive input into their lives and can only be a good thing.”
• Brian Lehtonen: “Children do not need supernatural instruction in school. The values that the church sees as their own are not. These are universal human values. The world needs more adults who do not indulge in make-believe.”
• Stefan Nogaj: “The content being taught is always positive and if anything instils beneficial life skills. And remember, the mention of God is in our national anthem so naturally children have the right to understand the context of God’s inclusion.”
• Andrew Robson: “The issue as I see it is they teach the Bible as fact. This leads to major confusion when my kids get home and I try and tell them that the Bible is a story that some people believe and some don’t. If they are going to teach Bible in class they should teach it hand in hand with evolution and Darwin’s theory.”
Religious Education in State schools.
In 2012 anti-Religious Education in State schools campaigner David Hines conducted a survey among the 1,833 Primary and Intermediate schools in the New Zealand. Each school was asked if they had Religious Instruction in 2012 and if they would be having it in 2013. Those schools who pulled out of these programmes were asked to state their reasons.
Although summaries of the survey have appeared in a number of New Zealand Newspapers, the actual survey results have, as far as I can ascertain, only been published on the American web site “Wesleyschair.net”.
The main “fact” to come out of the survey was that “62 schools pulled out of Religious Instruction programmes in 2012 and 2013”. This gives the impression that schools are ceasing these programmes because they are no longer wanted. However, a closer examination of the survey figures reveals that this if far from the truth.
Of these 62 schools that stopped having Religious Education (RE), the main reason given was because of a lack of available RE teachers. Other schools ceased the programmes because the schools themselves were closing! Other schools didn’t state a reason for not having the programmes. In fact only four schools stated that the main reason for stopping the RE programmes were because of a lack of support from the school Board, Principal, or the parents. A further four schools cited this as a secondary reason.
Although some schools have stopped having RE programmes over the last two years. other schools did start them up, or were considering doing so. This is admitted in the survey summary, but I couldn’t find any way of actually finding out how many!
I also have to question the accuracy of the survey because one school that I personally taught a RE lesson at in 2012 are reported as stating that they didn’t have these programmes in that year!
I have had a closer look at the survey results for the schools in the Auckland Region – where the present opposition to RE programmes originated. Of the 355 Primary and Intermediate schools, 99 said that they would definitely be running the RE programmes in 2013 (i.e. 28% of the total). However, there are three groups of schools which, I believe, should be excluded from the results :-
1. 42 of these schools are Intermediate ones to which, as far as I know, are not offered RE programmes. So how can they legitimately be included in the survey?
2. Of the actual Primary schools, 62 didn’t reply to the survey questions. You cannot assume, therefore, that they are not running a RE programme (I know for a fact that a number of them are).
3. Seven schools were “Undecided” for 2013 (not surprising since the survey was conducted well before the end of the 2012 academic year). Again, you cannot assume that these schools have now decided not to run a RE programme.
Therefore, removing these three groups of schools from the survey, shows that 99 out of 244 schools (41%) would definitely be having RE classes in 2013.
Overall, in the Auckland Region, 106 schools stated that they had RE programmes in 2012 and 99 stated that they would be having it in 2013, with 7 more still to decide at the time of the survey – hardly a big swing against these RE programmes!
“If God opens the door, no-one can shut it.” Revelation 3 v. 8.
I have appreciated hearing from those supporting Christian religious education (CRE) in schools. We hear so much news of children and teens being bullied so brutally that they consider taking their own life (and too often do). Do people in our communities realise the benefits of CRE in schools? Teaching the next generation to respect and love others, to be honest and to treat others as they would want to be treated must improve attitudes, and hopefully, the wider society. The advantage of having CRE available brings hope for the future and it’s time to encourage the continuation of this good work not demolish it.
Christian Religious Education in State schools.
I don’t really see what all the fuss is about. Although I believe that every child should be given the opportunity to learn the basics of the Christian faith, and thus be better equipped to make up their own mind about it when they are older, their parents have the right to withdraw their children from the “Bible” programme if they wish.
The important question for me is “Do these programmes actually make a difference in the lives of the children?”
Do they make a difference – Morally?
By teaching students about the importance of such virtues as respect, integrity, honesty, tolerance, discipline, acceptance, forgiveness etc. it is hoped to help develop a safe and friendly environment in which the students will be more likely to develop good habits and be better equipped to make better life choices.
Over many years of teaching these classes, I have received hundreds of letters and cards from students (Plus a few from parents and secular teachers as well) which indicate that the answer is a definate “YES.”
Do they make a difference – Spiritually?
Although the purpose of taking these programmes is not to share the Gospel, they do often lead to a development of an interest in spiritual realities. Again, my Blog shows many comments I have received from children that indicate that they are developing spiritually.
Do they make a difference – Academically?
By teaching students such virtues as listed above, these “Values” programmes are designed to encourage pupils to make good life choices and to help maintain a safe and friendly school environment in which students thrive.
As well as making a difference to the moral standards of the students these “values” programmes would also be expected to result in them becoming more disciplined and conscientious towards their school work. Do such programmes, therefore, actually make a difference in students academic achievements?
The above question has been impossible to answer until recently. However, with the publication of the National Standards results for NZ schools, it is now possible to answer this for the core subjects of Reading, Writing and Mathematics.
I have compared the academic achievements of pupils in sixty three primary schools in the South Auckland area (representing the achievements of about 20,000 pupils), thirty eight of which run a CRE programme and twenty five of which do not. The percentage of students achieving the National standard level or better for the “CRE” group was 69.9%, compared with 63.2% for the “non CRE” group. The average Decile numbers (an indication of how affluent an area each school is located in) for the two groups were similar, and thus couldn’t account for the significant difference in achievements between the “CRE” and “non-CRE” schools.
The evidence appears to show that a weekly 30 minute Christian religious education programme is likely to to make a positive difference to children both morally and academically.
The Nelson system introduced to our NZ free, secular & compulsory state school system’s a unique opportunity to allow the basis of all that is good and derived from God & the Saviour to be comprehended by children to inform them and encourage them about how important Christianity has been to the development of our NZ society. We do need to comprehend what that opportunity means. It is unique – its not for just any other religion but for the one that has been at the cornerstone of our free, democratic systems, producing everything from loving families producing well meaning, God fearing children to equality etc etc. It is due to our history & the uniqueness of Christianity’s role from missionaries & others that helped form NZ, almost like part of our founding documents the opportunity has been given & should not be lost. Ian