Anna, Sep13
Anna Halafoff

How should young people in schools learn about spirituality, faith, religion and meaning?

Australia’s government schools currently don’t provide much education about diverse religions and beliefs. Religious instruction in one tradition is provided to groups of children of particular faith backgrounds and the vast majority of these classes are Christian. Yet Face to Face shows us the reality that many of Australia’s schools are culturally and religiously diverse. The young students speak about their countries of origin and their journey to Australia, which in some cases involved fleeing wars and environmental disaster. These children also share their views of God, Goddesses, religion, religious rituals and practices. They appreciate diversity and the benefits of living in Australia, yet they also recount experiences of bullying and discrimination they have experienced at school.

Many scholars in Australia, and internationally, believe that education about diverse religions and beliefs can assist with countering negative stereotypes of religious groups and with increasing understanding and respect for religious diversity. A critical education about religion is also needed to explain religion’s role in both conflict and peace-building. Research has demonstrated that such educational programs are effective and beneficial to students and society at large.

Optimistically, Australia’s new National Curriculum provides many opportunities to teach about diverse religions and non-religious worldviews. While limited resources are currently available for teachers and students in these fields, Campfire is one of the places that teachers and students can find materials which can contribute to developing religious literacy, a vital skill for living and working in our increasingly globalised world.

Dr Anna Halafoff
Lecturer in Sociology, Deakin University

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