- David Hines
Religious education papers due to be released 18 November - but serious questions remain
Media diary note and invitation
By David Hines, researcher
5 October 2022
The Ministry of Education has refused to release details of its plan for religious education despite repeated Official Information requests since July 2020. But Associate Education Minister Jan Tinetti has now said the government will release information about the plan “in about eight weeks“. That puts the release date around November 18.
However, there are indications that the government’s original goals for religious education will be scaled back and supporters of secular education may not get the top item on their wish-list, the end of religious instruction (Bible in Schools).
I will be leading a discussion of these issues at the Auckland Unitarian Church, Ponsonby Rd, Auckland on Sunday October 9 at 11am. Religious and non-religious leaders have been invited. It will also go live on Zoom.
The main points:
1. A report prepared by religious studies Professor Paul Morris in 2020 is going to be made public. It followed a questionnaire he sent out asking what kind of religious education New Zealanders wanted. Religious and non-religious people took part. Professor Morris had also been asked to report on the kinds of religious education used in other countries.
2. However, Ms Tinetti said the Ministry of Education later commented that
a. some Maori and Pacific people were under-represented in the report and that these important voices needed to be heard as the project continued.
b. The conversation about diversity and religion in schools is now being progressed through the “refresh of the NZ curriculum”.
c. Religious diversity would be considered alongside other diverse perspectives including cultures identities, values and faith.
d. She provided a link to a curriculum refresh page which said that: “the big ideas” of the social sciences curriculum included Maori History as the foundation and continuing history of Aotearoa; and that colonisation and settlement have been central to Aotearoa New Zealand’s history for 200 years.
3. The Muslim Women’s Council c March 2021 wrote a collection of their own stories, which the Ministry has adopted as part of the social studies syllabus. It appears that other religious and non-religious groups have not been invited to do the same. (https://nzcurriculum.tki.org.nz/Principles/Cultural-diversity-principle/A-matou-korero-Our-stories)
4. The new syllabus has been tried out since early 2022 and was scheduled to go nationwide early 2023.
5. There is no clear indication yet of whether this will include:
a. banning religious instruction programmes (which would require a change in legislation),
b. whether it will include non-religious views, and
c. how far it will follow the advice of Professor Morris.
6. The proposal to include religious education in the NZ Curriculum began with a forum of religious leaders convened by the Religious Diversity Centre in 2019. In adopting the proposal in October 2019, Education Minister Chris Hipkins said he intended to start a conversation on the idea of replacing religious instruction with neutral education about a wider range of religions.
7. As someone who has been trying to get information about proposal for more than two years, it seems the public side of the conversation has not yet started. Yet this new, undiscussed, plan is set to be implemented at the start of 2023.
Public forum, Sunday October 9, from 11am
The zoom link is https://us02web.zoom.us/j/8949163748?pwd=eU4vaXhzRXZJNkd5c3JIVmliSm1pZz09
Meeting ID: 894 916 3748, Passcode: 12345.
Donations to the costs of my lobbying would be welcome! The QR code leads to my PayPal account. My main costs are setting up this site and conducting surveys.
When these reports become available, I'd like to conduct a further pubic opinion poll on the issues raised - to count the religious and non-religious people's views.
The government has consulted a number of interest groups but has scarcely touched the vast majority of New Zealanders.
Especially missing from the consultation are the group who answered "no religion" at the last census.