The Education Ministry has contradicted itself in its guidelines on religious education and activities in schools.
Ministry Senior Manager Martin Connelly said the Education Act stipulated that teaching in all primary and intermediate schools must be “entirely of a secular nature”, and that the singing of hymns and Christmas carols, prayers and karakia at assembly, and Bible readings may be illegal.
However, in the Ministry of Education Draft NZ Curriculum released last month, the document states that spiritual well-being (Taha wairua) along with mental, social and physical well-being is at the heart of the well-being of students.
It also states that “values are deeply held beliefs..” and “…the specific ways in which these values find expression in an individual school will be guided by dialogue between the school and its community.”
“To prohibit a child from singing a gospel song at a talent quest, sharing a virtue or principle from the Bible, or a student praying where there has been a tragedy affecting the school, is government control of the worst kind,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First.
“The Education Ministry should heed its own document and allow schools and their communities to determine what is appropriate. Parents are not objecting to these simple displays of religion and faith because they know that they are beneficial to their children,” says Mr McCoskrie. “It also explains why many integrated schools (predominantly faith-based schools) have experienced significant growth, and many have large waiting lists because of the roll caps imposed by the government.”
If we are going to encourage spiritual, mental and social well-being of our younger generation, we need to allow an expression of that in their learning environment.