Religion in Education Policy: briefing

Basic Education

16 June 2003
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Meeting report

EDUCATION PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE

EDUCATION PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
17 June 2003
RELIGION IN EDUCATION POLICY: BRIEFING

Chairperson: Prof. Mayatula (ANC)

Documents handed out:
Draft 3: Policy: Religion in Education (not for general public distribution)
Draft 3: Table of Contents (see Appendix)
Final version of Policy: Religion in Education

SUMMARY
The Department of Education presented the framework of the Policy on Religion in Education. Basically the policy allows respect for diversity in religion. Members were interested in how the policy would be implemented in schools to avoid bias in favour of or against certain religions. When it was suggested that this policy was adopting the American relativism on religion, the Department explained that the American model was separatist whereas the South African model was co-operative.

MINUTES
The Director General, Mr Thami Mseleku, introduced the presentation by stating that the policy focused on three aspects:
- religion in the curriculum
- religious education
- religious observance.

He stated that the final document for public scrutiny and comment would be released on the 20 June 2003. He emphasised that the purpose of the presentation was to dispel incorrect media perceptions about the policy on religion in education.

The Deputy Director General, Mr Duncan Hindle, continued the presentation by outlining the background and process leading to the formulation of the policy on religion in education. 1999 consulted stakeholders wisely and came up with . He said that the policy aimed at clarifying the constitutionality and legality of religion in education. He added that the policy was simply a framework within which schools were expected to act with regard to religion. In summary, Mr Hindle said that the South African government was adopting a co-operative model when it comes to religion.

Discussion
Ms Mentor (ANC) requested the Department to provide the committee with another presentation when the document was finalised and comprehensive.

Ms Mentor disagreed that religion in schools was not a constitutional matter. She added that parents or guardians should be primarily consulted on the issue of religion in schools

Ms Mahlawe (ANC) commented that the principles of the diversity approach of the policy would not be able to help in the rehabilitation of abused children and in general moral regeneration.

Mr Mseleku explained that religion was not the sole basis for moral values and that the family and other institutions are part of ethics generation.

Mr Green (ACDP) agreed with Ms Mentor that parents should be primarily consulted when formulating the policy. He however thought that they should be consulted via school governing bodies.

Mr Green questioned the validity of the National Anthem in the light of religious diversity because the Anthem has a Christian origin.

The Chairperson felt that the National Anthem was a patriotic symbol which should never be confused with sectional interests. He agreed that it had Christian origins, but that by "God" it should not mean the Christian God, but a God in whatever religion or denomination. Later on, Mr Kgwele (ANC) agreed with the Chairperson and warned that Mr Green's interpretation would be divisive.

Mr Green asked how the government was going to deal with schools that had only one established religious character.

Mr Mseleku explained that such schools should practice their religion, but that they should not preclude the enrolment and practice of other religions by other pupils. There should be an equitable observance of religions represented in that school.

In reply to Ms Dudley (ACDP) asking if the consultation had been broad and if submissions were clearly examined as the document does not reflect public comment, Mr Mseleku said that this had been the case.

Ms Dudley asked if the examination of religious education would not infringe on the rights of pupils who might not want to participate.

Mr Hindle disagreed and stated that pupils would be free not to participate on religious grounds

Ms Dudley asked who conferred power to the Minister to decide on religion in education.

Mr Hindle referred Ms Dudley to paragraph 88 of the document which stated that the Department was supposed to formulate the policy and the school governing bodies would implement it. Later on Ms Olckers (NNP) disagreed with this interpretation and maintained that it was open to a legal dispute.

Mr Doman (DA) commented that it did not seem as if there was enough time for consultation on the current draft. Ms Olckers (NNP) agreed with him . Mr Doman also pointed out that the document needed some substantial editing. He was however, satisfied that religious instruction was the ultimate responsibility of the family, parents and the faith communities.

Mr Hindle agreed and stated that the policy would be a framework within which the details would be worked out by school governing bodies for different schools.

Mr Mpontshane (IFP) reckoned that the majority of teachers were Christian and suggested that it would cause some bias in religion education.

Mr Hindle said that there was training for teachers and monitoring mechanisms to avoid bias.

Mr Mpontshane said that he viewed the policy as adopting the American relativism on religion which he thought would cause chaos.

Mr Hindle explained that the American model was separatist and the South African model was co-operative.

Ms Olckers (NNP) said that if the Department maintained that the media misrepresented the policy it could only be so because the policy was poorly marketed. She also said that the policy was more of a human rights document than a religion one.

Ms Olckers asked how teachers would be trained when there was still a backlog of training materials for OBE (Outcomes-based Education).

Mr Hindle said that the training team and teaching plans were ahead in Cape Town and that the situation was not as pessimistic as Ms Olckers made it.

Mr van den Heever (ANC) maintained that there had been broad and representative consultation in the formulation of the draft policy on religion in education. He commended the Department for its work. He said that those who were opposed to the policy simply wanted to propagate monotheism in schools.

After few announcements on visiting the merging higher education institutions and on international visits, the meeting was adjourned.

Appendix :
DRAFT 3: POLICY: RELIGION IN EDUCATION
(AS AT 06 JUNE 2003)

TABLE OF CONTENTS (needs to be modified)
Religion, Educationg and Democracy 2
Executive Summary 2
Introduction 4
Constitutional Values 7
Religion at School 10
Religion Education 12
Learning about Religion and Religions 16
Teaching about Religion and Religions 18
Programmes for Religion Education 23
Unity in Diversitv 25
Summary of Policy 29
Values 29
Religion.at School 30
Religion Education 30
Learning about Religion and Religions 31
Teaching, about Religion and Religions 31
Proagrammes in Religion Education 32
Unity in Diversity 33
CONCLUSION: 34

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