Original Research

Special Religious Education in a post-secular Australia

Walter B. Firth
Verbum et Ecclesia | Vol 43, No 1 | a2603 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ve.v43i1.2603 | © 2022 Walter B. Firth | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 24 May 2022 | Published: 13 September 2022

About the author(s)

Walter B. Firth, Department of Old Testament and Hebrew Scriptures, Faculty of Theology and Religion, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa; Department of Practical Theology and Missiology, Faculty of Theology and Religion, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa


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Abstract

Special Religious Education (SRE) classes are held in New South Wales public primary schools weekly. This article is built on a review of SRE classes based on Anglican past experiences to develop recommendations to ameliorate shortcomings and enhance their quality and value in New South Wales public primary schools in a post-secular society. The research was a literature study and evaluative interpretation of Anglican SRE in New South Wales from the newly emerged post-secular context. It described and discussed the history of SRE and education in New South Wales: making a contextual inquiry into the history of such education in a secular society. It used a qualitative approach to describe and interpret historical interview responses of Anglican adults about their experiences as students in SRE classes while attending New South Wales public primary schools. Three meta-themes arose from their experiences: a space for questioning; the importance of relationship and the temporal experience of SRE lessons. Recommendations to improve and deepen the SRE curriculum were made as a result of these responses, and a possible pedagogical framework to work on improving both the curriculum and learning experiences of students in SRE was suggested. This research confirmed an expectation that there will be religion and Christian teaching within the secular education system to embed virtues, values and ethics into Australian society; it is in programmes, such as SRE, children can question the way we live and act, develop a sense of belonging and a sense that they matter. It also showed that the current way is not the most conducive model for this to occur.

Intradisciplinary and/or interdisciplinary implications: In the context of the secular/non-religious public reflex in Australian society there are conflicting views in the community about the place of SRE in government schools. In this context, it is critical that Christian educators can support their claims of the continued value and role of SRE.


Keywords

post-secular; Special Religious Education; religious education; spirituality; Australia

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