Attendance at religious classes in Victoria slumps by a stupendous 99 percent

A WHILE back the state did a very smart thing. It scrapped religious education from schol classes. Now the non-mandatory classes, called Special Religious Instruction (SRI)— are held during lunchtime and before and after school.

The move, according The Age, has seen attendances at these classes plummet by 99 percent in a decade. This is music to the ears of secularists such as Jennifer Bleazby, above, a senior lecturer at the School of Education, Culture and Society at Monash University.

She, like many in the state, believes that SRI has no place in secular state schools as it promotes religion, stifles critical thinking and draws students into a “post truth” world awash with disinformation, conspiracy thinking, science denialism, and extremist views.

She is quoted in this Monash article as saying:

Education aims to foster reflective and critical thinking, intellectual virtues, an awareness of cognitive biases, and the capacity for collaborative inquiry.

It is counter-productive and hypocritical for schools to claim they actively discourage post-truth phenomena if they’re simultaneously running religious instruction programs that aim to indoctrinate and risk encouraging the very types of thinking associated with the post-truth world.

The rapid decline of SRI

In 2013, nearly 93,000 Victorian students were enrolled in SRI, in which religious groups taught students about Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism or the Bahá’í faith.

But government changes since 2011—requiring parents to opt their children in to classes, and then, under the Andrews government, shifting classes to lunch or outside school hours—have sapped demand.

Today fewer than 1,000 students are currently enrolled in such classes.

The decline coincides with the number of Australians who identify as Christian falling from 61 per cent in 2011 to 44 per cent in 2021, and 42 per cent of Victorians said they had no religion, according to the 2021 census.

Writing for The Age, Madeleine Heffernan, pointed out that in 2018, 1,487 students across 71 government schools were receiving SRI. But the only two SRI providers still operating in state schools say they are now down to about 750 students.

Korus Connect is one of these providers. It says on its website:

Special Religious Instruction affirms that faith matters, including for students who identify as Christian and for those who want to find out about the Christian faith from a person of faith.

Image via YouTube

It glumly reports that only around 300 students now participate in its weekly Christianity classes. Its Chief Executive Dawn Penney, above, said:

Administrative changes to the program made in response to societal expectations in recent years have made it increasingly difficult for schools to offer special religious instruction in any of the faiths.

Victorian government school education must be secular by law. Religious education, where students study world faiths and secular beliefs, is part of the Victorian curriculum.

Victoria’s coalition government pledged to reinstate special religious instruction to the curriculum if it won the 2018 election. But It has since dropped that policy, calling for a curriculum review instead.

Religious education in England

Religious Education (RE) remains a compulsory subject in the state education system, despite it not being part of the national curriculum. Schools are required to teach a programme of religious studies according to local and national guidelines.

But moves are at foot to rename RE “Religion and Worldviews”.

Image via Wikipedia CC

The National Secular Society (NSS) reported earlier this month that a bill, introduced by Liberal Democrat Baroness Burt of Solihull, above, would bring about the change.

The Education (Non-religious Philosophical Convictions) Bill would rename religious education (RE) “religion and worldviews” (RW) and require most state funded schools to teach non-religious worldviews alongside religious ones.

However, voluntary-aided schools with a religious character would be exempt from the changes.

NSS campaigns officer Alejandro Sanchez said:

Welsh schoolchildren are already reaping the benefits of a more critical and pluralistic approach in the new Religion, Values and Ethics curriculum.

Their English counterparts should be equally entitled to an education that puts religious and non-religious views on an equal footing.

Christianity is now a minority religion in England. That it continues to dominate religious education in our schools is completely untenable. Reform is now long overdue.

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3 responses to “Attendance at religious classes in Victoria slumps by a stupendous 99 percent”

  1. What an enlightened attitude, the last time that I was in Melbourne, the issue was being discussed and my agent predicted what would happen in his kids’ school – he has been proved correct.
    When my daughters were in a 90 student primary school, we did not withdraw them from Religious Indoctrination as that would have been difficult for the teaching staff and they would have stood out.
    In secondary education, they were withdrawn from all religion.
    Knowing most of the children’s parents in both sectors, If students had to be opted in, the attendance would likely have dropped by 95%, same as Victoria.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Hallelujah!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Religious education has, at its core, the bible which is God’s word. Thus, any religious teaching depends on the unquestioned acceptance of the multiple fictions which comprise the bible. In addition it requires highly selective reading of the bible to avoid the contradictions, cruelties, sexual abominations and so much that even to the most devout believer could never be followed today.

    The result that any religious teaching is bogus as it is based on anachronistic fictions.

    Liked by 1 person

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