The RSA has taken a leading role in the formulation of the new Victorian Worldviews curriculum, being rolled out to all Victorian schools over 2017 and 2018.
Most state governments in Australia have historically provided for “special religious instruction” (SRI), where local clergy have been allowed to come into schools and instruct children in the tenets of the Christian religion. For years, the RSA and other secular groups lobbied against this blatant incursion into a supposedly secular school system (see our submission to the Victorian government here) but until recently, efforts have been thwarted by a powerful religious lobby.
In 2007, a new group called “Fairness in Religion in Schools” (FIRIS) came on the scene in Victoria. FIRIS was formed by a group of parents concerned about the aggressive nature of religious materials their children were bringing home from school. Parents started to lobby for change.
These efforts culminated with a Ministerial Direction in 2015 that limited the provision of SRI in schools to only be held before or after school, or during lunchtimes. In addition, principals had the discretion to refuse to host SRI.
The new Worldviews Curriculum
When the new Ministerial Direction was announced, the Victorian Government stepped up consultation with a range of religious and non-religious groups about introducing a new initiative that came to be known as the Worldviews Curriculum. This new curriculum would ensure all Victorian students learned about the five major world religions – Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam and Judaism – and secular humanism and rationalism.
The RSA was instrumental in ensuring the Worldviews Curriculum included learning about rationalism. To put flesh on the bones, we have commissioned a Monash University curriculum expert to design and develop a set of lessons for teachers, that illustrate the contribution rationalism has made to the history of Western civilisation.
For a description of the new Worldviews Curriculum see here (pdf).
To view and comment on the RSA’s draft lessons for teachers, see here.