CONTROVERSY over religious instruction in state schools is set to reignite, with new figures showing up to 400,000 children should not be taking part in the program.
Principals are being accused of ignoring their own policies and allowing kids to participate in religious instruction (RI).
Civil libertarians and secular organisations maintain RI has no place in the state system.
RI came under fire earlier this year after academic Dr Cathy Byrne revealed Queensland students in five schools had reportedly been told they would “burn in hell” by instructors.
In 2010 The Sunday Mail exposed how primary school students were being taught that man and dinosaurs walked the earth together, while in 2012, a Brisbane mum pulled her young son out of RI after he was shown disturbing crucifixion images.
Department of Education, Training and Employment (DETE) deputy Director-General Jeff Hunt said the provision of RI was legislated in Queensland and could be taught for up to one hour of the school week from Year 1.
DETE recently set up a quality assurance taskforce to oversee the quality of programs provided by faith groups.
New RTI figures show about 396,343 out of 525,730 students had no religion nominated on their enrolment forms or department records. Under Government policy these students are meant to receive “other instruction”, unless their parents inform the school otherwise.
A DETE spokesman said enrolment figures did not reflect the number of students participating in RI as parents may opt in or out at a later date. Outside enrolments, religious nomination figures are not collected by the department.
Australian Secular Lobby national director Hugh Wilson said this showed DETE was either “totally incompetent” or trying to hide over the issue.
“There is no excuse for officials to continue to hide and pretend they don’t know how many should be in and how many shouldn’t,’’ he said.
He accused principals of ignoring the policy, but Mr Fay denied the claim and said he didn’t think the 396,000 figure would be a true representation of parental permissions.
Source: The Australian