Divided beliefs over Bible in the classroom

One in three state primary and intermediate schools teaches religious instruction, according to a survey which has triggered debate over what children are being taught. Here, the chief of the Churches Education Commission, Simon Greening, and the survey’s author, David Hines, present their views:


Why should New Zealand primary schools continue to offer a Christian religious education programme to students?

Because we live in a global village and therefore primary school students should have the opportunity to learn about the various religions in our world. The Churches Education Commission provides a Christian-based religious education programme. Other religious organisations have equal rights to provide religious-based education programmes in schools.

Because the curriculum we use teaches students the fundamental values upon which our civil society is built, for example: treat others as we would like to be treated, be honest, forgive others, look after people who are less fortunate than you.

Because the Bible is a great work of literature; this ancient book has influenced great works of art, inspired Broadway shows, and has been influential in shaping cultures around the world. Its stories and ideas are embodied in history and literature. This is not to say that other religions don’t also have holy books that they read from and hold in high regard; it’s important students in an education environment have the opportunity of learning about the religions that have shaped the world in which we live.


The Human Rights Commission in 2009 published guidelines about religion in schools, and it made a sharp distinction between “religious instruction” and “religious education”. Religious instruction means programmes that promote a single religion and invite children to make a decision about it. Religious education means programmes that are multi-cultural, and don’t invite a decision. Continue reading


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