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Religious Education: Adding value in the classroom

In an uncertain world, religious education (RE) can support students in their quest for positive values and sources of spirituality.

This is the view shared by the members a task group of Queensland Churches Together (QCT) and its 11 member churches, which has been following the development of new RE legislation (see: “God of Choice”, Courier Mail, April 15-16).

“QCT understands the desire of the Education Department to make RE legislation more inclusive, especially considering the multicultural environment of our state. At the same time we hope that RE will remain an integral part of school education,” says Glenine Hamlyn, General Secretary of QCT.

“Religious education should address the real needs of today’s young people and provide a space for them to explore the bigger questions of life,” says Carole Danby, coordinator of the training and resourcing of volunteer RE teachers in state schools for the Catholic Archdiocese of Brisbane. “While providing a clear picture of one particular set of beliefs, RE should also teach students respect for a variety of belief systems.” The task group says it would welcome a policy statement from Education Queensland to the effect that in RE lessons, any reference to belief systems other than the teacher’s own should be respectful and unprejudiced.

“Religious browbeating and Bible-bashing should be things of the past,” says Jonathan Sargeant, Officer for RE in state schools for the Anglican Diocese of Brisbane. The member churches of QCT emphasize the importance of properly preparing volunteer RE teachers for their task in schools. “Because our volunteers are well trained, the students I work with actually want more RE. They see its value for them in understanding themselves and their world,” adds Jonathan.

Mayfield State School at Carina is a case in point. In the most recent Triennial School Review parents rated the RE programme as very important for the well-being of the school and its students.

The QCT task group welcomes the increased accountability which will result from the new legislation. “This is a chance for churches and other religious groups to put in place more checks and balances to ensure that religious education is of a high standard,” the Uniting Church representative on the task group, Revd David MacGregor, explains.

Queensland Churches Together (QCT) has eleven members, including the biggest mainline churches. QCT aims to forge unity between the churches while respecting each other’s diversity.