Sunday, May 20, 2007

Teaching religion in Fiji schools?

from w

I was surprised by a story in today's Fiji Village newes about the teaching pf religion to be compulsory in Fiji schools. I think 'optional' is the status quo at present.

Such a step surely requires a lot of thought and discussion, not just a jump-start idea from the man at the top of the bureaucracy, and an interim one at that! Perhaps the intention is based on an assumption that teaching religion will make the children behave better!

Even if some students can be excused (perhaps they are bahai or not mainstream religion in their family) it is a divisive topic in Fiji's pluralistic society. Certainly the children need to learn their cultural and religious heritage but the possibilities/probabilities of causing division/arguments are certainly there in a school situation. The volunteers/teachers need to be well trained to address the subject of religion and perhaps need a Diploma first. Volunteers may have a very narrow point of view and teaching the 'truth' of a religion is debatable as there are many variations within each religion.

It would be more interesting to teach ALL students something about several religions in an attempt at learning to respect difference.

I taught Religious Education in Fiji and Australian schools once upon a time - with a Christian bias but the material I used was about stories and was not a fundamentalist kind of view. I realize now I could have done it better as my views are more liberal these days with more respect towards people with different views.

in today's Fiji village:
Religious Classes to be Compulsory in all Schools
May 21, 2007, 07:42

The Education Ministry is now in the process of implementing a compulsory policy to ensure that all schools in the country have religious classes.

Interim Education Minister, Netani Sukanaivalu said the Education Act provides for religious classes in schools but those students and teachers who do not want to participate in the classes can be excused.

Sukanaivalu said he is now speaking to all the Christian, Muslim and Hindu leaders to ensure that they make their people available for the classes in all schools which is expected to strengthen the morals and values of the students.

Sukanaivalu also said the teachings and correct interpretation of the religious books is necessary as religion is sometimes used by certain leaders and politicians for their own personal agenda.

Meanwhile, Fijian Teachers Association General Secretary said the Interim Minister for Education should stop trying to make changes to the education system.

Maika Namudu said the call by Netani Sukanaivalu to have different religions taught in all schools is not well researched and will not work.

Fiji Teachers Union, General Secretary Agni Deo Singh could not be contacted for a comment as he is away at a conference in Singapore.


Pandabonium said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Pandabonium said...

I hope this is just one man's bad idea and fizzles out quickly.

Comparative religions to instill understanding and respect for other's views yes.

I agree with your take.

When I was a student, there was (as still isn't) any religion taught in the public school (California). I got my religious/moral training at church and from my parents.

My daughters went to Buddhist temple and Sunday school. We sent them to a Catholic Jr. High and highschool where they were taught that religion, but also had comparative religion class. I feel their exposure to diverse views better prepared them for the world.

In the case of Fiji, I feel that mutual respect amoung the major religions there is crucial for peace and democracy, but teaching religion in the school rather than homes, villages, churches and temples is not the way to achieve it.

Peceli and Wendy's Blog said...

I updated my post at the same time as you responded Panda. Yes, I think we do have similar views on the subject.
My anxieties about the subject are two-fold: one - the teachers/volunteers may only give one interpretation,(e.g. reading Genesis as factual istead of mythic) two - dividing students into religious groups for an hour a week or whatever might do more harm than good.
Also of course an Interim minister should not initiate too much change at all. The tactics of an interfering mother-in-law is what I would call some of the derring-do at present.