The New South Wales government appears to have wiped its hands of any responsibility over the teaching of anti-science content in the state’s public schools as part of the Special Religious Education.
In response to concerns about the teaching of creationism in public school classrooms, education minister Prue Car has told the Rationalist Society of Australia that the religious organisations delivering SRE were responsible for the curriculum.
Earlier this year, RSA president Meredith Doig asked Minister Car what the Minns government would do to ensure creationism was not taught in the classrooms of New South Wales public schools.
The RSA had discovered teaching materials (see inset image) comparing creationism with evolution and claiming that “some people think the theories of evolution and creation by God can both be true.”
Since then the RSA has also discovered Islamic SRE materials that teach children about “hellfire” and warn them to “obey Allah”, “choose your friends wisely” and not “compromise or change your identity”.
In reply (see letter below), Minister Car failed to directly address the RSA’s concerns about the teaching of creationism in public schools.
“It is the responsibility of an approved provider to authorise the materials and education used by their teachers. It is also the approved provider’s responsibility to make their curriculum scope and sequence(s) accessible publicly and in sufficient detail for parents/carers to be able to understand what is covered in lessons,” she said.
The teaching of creationism in public schools is at odds with New South Wales’ official science curriculum. In 2009, the state’s education department issued a notice saying that, if creationism and intelligent design were taught “as part of any school-based program,” it must be made clear to students that they were “not scientific, nor evidence-based”.
Earlier this year, Dr Jennifer Bleazby, an education expert from Monash University, told an RSA Webinar that the teaching of creationism was commonplace within religious instruction programs in Australian public schools.
She also said religious instruction teachers operating in New South Wales and Queensland schools use numerous methods of indoctrination and deliver content that undermines official curricula – especially science.
Dr Doig had also asked Minister Car whether the Minns government would end its support for segregating children in public schools along religious lines.
In her reply, Minister Car said the New South Wales government was “supportive” of SRE and noted that SRE had been “part of our public school system since the nineteenth century”.
Image: Prue Car (Facebook)
Letter from Deputy Premier and Minister Prue Car, 29 June 2023
Dear Dr Doig,
Thank you for your representations of 8 May 2023, on behalf of the Rationalist Society of Australia, regarding Special Religious Education and Special Education in Ethics.
The NSW Government is supportive of Special Religious Education (SRE) and Special Education in Ethics (SEE) as outlined in Sections 32 and 33A of the Education Act 1990. Special Religious Education has been an integral part of our public school system since the nineteenth century. Special Education in Ethics was introduced in 2011 as a secular alternative.
It is the responsibility of an approved provider to authorise the materials and education used by their teachers. It is also the approved provider’s responsibility to make their curriculum scope and sequence(s) accessible publicly and in sufficient detail for parents/carers to be able to understand what is covered in lessons.
If you would like any further information about SRE and SEE, you are welcome to visit the Department of Education’s website at https://education.nsw.gov.au/religion-and-ethics. You may also wish to contact Mr Josh Chenery, Program Manager, SRE and SEE, Curriculum Early Years and Primary Learners by telephone on 7814 2353 or email at [email protected].
Prue Car MP
Deputy Premier of New South Wales
Minister for Education and Early Learning
Minister for Western Sydney