Religion vital to Australian education

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Anglican Education Commission news release

Recent press reports have seriously misrepresented the position of the Anglican Education Commission on public education policy.

The commission has not called for the scrapping of the chaplaincy program or for the replacement of Special Religious Education (Scripture) in NSW schools.

By conflating several distinct policy areas, a report in the Sydney Morning Herald (Page 1, 25/6/14) seriously misled the public.

It is unfortunate that in the debate about the future of the National School Chaplaincy Program, the provision of NSW scripture (SRE) has been linked to chaplaincy.  These are, and have always been, separate. The SRE program is not government-funded.

In its submission to the recent Review of the Australian Curriculum, the Anglican Education Commission, in looking to the long term, argued for the inclusion of a mandatory study of ‘Worldviews and Ethics’, which would incorporate the study of all religions and be available for all students. If such a subject was added to the Australian Curriculum it would have significant benefits for all students.

This would not replace the vital SRE program in NSW schools and as a national move, would have much wider implications.

The Anglican Education Commission in the Diocese of Sydney strongly believes that education is incomplete unless it includes a study of religion. The diocese has had a strong history as both a provider of education through diocesan schools and in the provision of Special Religious Education (Scripture) in public schools. The Commission is absolutely committed to the future of both.

Secondly, the diocese, like the Catholic Church, does not have a policy on chaplaincy as such. The AEC has not called for the scrapping of the chaplains program. However, should the NSW Government decide to take over the chaplaincy program in its present form, some hard questions will need to be asked about its nomenclature and whether ‘chaplain’ is the right word to use for such a program. If the program is purely a secular one, why not call it a welfare program and direct its focus to the high priority areas of wellness, psychology and student health?

Press reports with misleading headlines and out-of-context quotes are not helpful as governments consider these crucial areas of policy.

Dr Bryan Cowling,
Executive Director,
Anglican Education Commission
25/6/2014

Update: The Sydney Morning Herald has refused to publish a letter from Bryan Cowling, or any correction of its erroneous story.

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