My View: Religious Instruction in Queensland Schools

Belinda Hokins, Queensland parent

WITH SO much focus on school attendance and an already-crowded curriculum, why is it our kids are left idle one afternoon every week while other pupils attend a religious instruction (RI) class?

In the state schools of my home state of Queensland, the work stops for many pupils when RI is conducted in class. Yet, when our daughters attend the music program, schoolwork for other pupils continues unhindered. It begs the question: why is RI given such special treatment in a public school setting?

As a parent of primary-aged children, it is my stance that these segregated religious studies should be held out of school hours. Quite simply, the division of children on the basis of religion in public schools is insular, not inclusive, and is discriminatory.

The majority of parents have opted out of RI in Queensland, with around only one-quarter participating in this exclusionary and outdated program.

RI is not taught as a secular subject in Queensland. Those participating in RI are taught doctrine by church volunteers of the particular faith that is already in place in the home. While this class takes place, the overwhelming majority of pupils are forced to wait, with no new work proceeding during this time, as the state’s education department policy dictates.

For state schools to be affiliated with religion on a compulsory basis is alarming. Public schools should be secular at the very core of their foundation for a truly unbiased and equal education for all. No particular religion should have preference in our schools. When one does, it demonstrates an inequality in our system that needs to be corrected.

If time must be allocated to a study of religion, then it should be presented by teachers, not volunteers, in an approved curriculum that is factual, historical and unbiased, and provides a comparative study of world religion as a whole. It should not be church volunteers proselytising dogma and dividing children while the majority of kids are excluded.

Ideally, I'd like to see such subjects fall by the wayside and be replaced by many other factual pursuits of knowledge. I believe that morality, compassion and many other things on the subject of psychology and mental health would provide our children with a more viable and inclusive option.

More than 2,500 people have already signed the petition by Queensland Parents for Secular State Schools calling for a review of the way religion is presented in state schools! You can access it here on the Queensland Parliament’s website.