UNDER REVIEW: Religious instruction programs in schools under review.
UNDER REVIEW: Religious instruction programs in schools under review. Patrick Woods

Religious Instruction review could see program end

RELIGIOUS instruction in state schools is under threat with the State Government is reviewing a curriculum which includes material designed for church settings.

Christian Religion Education Program Sunshine Coast chief executive officer Nicky Ross has been teaching and coordinating religious instruction for 26 years in Brisbane and on the Sunshine Coast for the last 10 years.

The program is taught for up to one hour per week in 47 state schools on the Sunshine Coast and 80% of parents have given consent for their children to be part of it.

Now it is under threat following Windsor Principal, Matthew Keong's, decision to suspend religious instruction following complaints the religious syllabus, Connect, was trying to convert children to the Christian faith.


Christian Religious Education Program Sunshine Coast CEO Nicky Ross.
Christian Religious Education Program Sunshine Coast CEO Nicky Ross.

The case prompted Education Queensland to review the religious material been used.

Education Minister Kate Jones said if it was found the material was outside the guidelines "we will remove it from schools".

But Ms Ross said the Connect curriculum was designed for school and church settings and teachers were trained to know the difference.

"I'm aware of what is happening in Brisbane, but it is not a fair indication of what is happening on the Coast," Ms Ross said.

"It is unfair to take small snippets and not look across the whole spectrum. It is not a fair reflection of what is happening the rest of the country.

"On the Sunshine Coast we have a very high standard. We have never had any parents complaining about the content of the lessons and we are not aware of any complaints to the ombudsman.

"The Connect curriculum is written by youth workers and is designed for church and schools.

"We are very aware statements made in the curriculum do proselytise, but the Education Act is specific not to do this and to make sure we are only educating children about the Christian faith.

"Connect can't print two different types of material, it's not viable. That's why we train RI instructors to realise where the boundary is and not to step over it.

"RI is about educating children about the Christian faith, that's what we do.

"They have taken an excerpt from the teacher's manual and that is not what is presented in the classroom."

Ms Ross said the teachers did more than teach RI, they formed part of a "volunteer base in each school".

"They support the breakfast program, mentoring, Shine and are a link back to the church which meets some of the needs not able to be met by the Education Department," she said.

"Let's not forget also our history as nation is formed on the Christian faith. Parents don't always have opportunity or money to send their children to Christian schools.

"This gives them the opportunity to go to a state school and still learn about the Christian faith.

"Why should parents be discriminated against if they can't afford a Christian private school?

"Why can't they be given the opportunity in a state school to choose whether they want to option or not?"

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