Looks like we might be making a bit of progress in attempts to establish a genuine secular education system in New Zealand.
There are reports that “secular education advocates have had a win in their fight against the Bible in Schools programme.”
The Secular Education Network has been asking for months for removal of sectarian religious instruction classes from public schools. They have now been given access to guidelines the Ministry of education may suggest to resolve the problem.
Network spokesman David Hines said schools would be encouraged to end religious instruction during class time.
“And instead have it at lunch, or after school. Parents would also have to give written permission before they could get put in these classes. They are suggested guidelines. But these are both problem areas, so it’s good that they’re addressing those,” he said.
Apparently the suggested guidelines would also make it clear religious instruction is not part of the New Zealand Curriculum and would discourage religious observances in school assemblies. The Ministry will also consider how to raise awareness about the difference between religious instruction and religious education.
So this is progress. Religious instruction will be relegated to an out-of-school-hours activity like sport. Hopefully, there will also be changes to make this an opt-in choice and not the current opt-out system where parents requests are often ignored.
I agree with the Secular Education Network that there is a place for religious education (and education of other belief systems) in schools but this is very different to religious instruction which is a form of dogmatic brainwashing.
Clearly this is an ongoing process of negotiation by of the Education Ministry with concerned parents and schools. I just hope this progress is confirmed and there is no backsliding.