Religious instruction has almost disappeared from Victorian state schools, as government changes to make the program voluntary and held outside class hours prompted enrolments to drop by 99 per cent in 10 years. Source: The Age.
In 2013, nearly 93,000 Victorian students were enrolled in special religious instruction, in which religious groups taught students about Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism or the Baha’i faith.
But government changes since 2011 – requiring parents to opt their children into classes, and then, under the Andrews Government, shifting classes to lunch or outside school hours – have sapped demand, with fewer than 1000 students currently enrolled.
The decline coincides with the number of Australians who identify as Christian falling from 61 per cent in 2011 to 44 per cent in 2021, and 42 per cent of Victorians said they had no religion, according to the 2021 census.
In 2018, 1487 students across 71 government schools were receiving special religious instruction classes, according to the Education Department’s last count. But the only two special religious instruction providers still operating in state schools say there are now about 750 students.
Korus Connect said about 300 students participate in its weekly Christianity classes, which are supervised by a teacher.
United Jewish Education Board marketing manager Rebecca Hoffman said 450 students across 32 Victorian schools attended the board’s Judaism classes.
When lessons were scheduled during class hours, about 1300 primary school students across 40 schools participated, she said.
Victorian Government school education must be secular by law. Religious education, where students study world faiths and secular beliefs, is part of the Victorian curriculum.
The Coalition pledged to reinstate special religious instruction to the curriculum if it won the 2018 election. It has since dropped that policy, calling for a curriculum review instead.
Religion class enrolments slump in state schools in decade since program changes (By Madeleine Heffernan, The Age)