Ethics education in Australian schools
Next year NSW plans to introduce ethics classes for those children who opt out of Special Religious Education (SRE – more commonly known as ‘Scripture’) classes.
A press release from the NSW Council of Churches claimed that it had consulted the Buddhist community and that the Buddhists, together with the Jewish and Islamic communities, were ‘discussing a strategy to oppose this policy in the upcoming election campaign’. This claim is, so far as we know, untrue. The NSW Council of Churches has not been in discussion with the Buddhist Council of NSW, which, along with the ASA and FABC, actually support ethics classes in schools. The NSW Council of Churches has retracted its claim, as it appears it did not consult with the Jewish or Islamic communities either.
It should be noted that the NSW Council of Churches is an independent body, not affiliated with the National Council of Churches, with whom the ASA and FABC have a genuine relationship as participants in the Australian Partnership of Religious Organizations (APRO).
The ASA, FABC and state Buddhist Councils are in discussion with relevant bodies, including the St James Ethics Center, and we support ethics education for children. In addition, the Buddhist Councils in many states are working to support Buddhist volunteer teachers for SRE classes. With the rapid growth of Buddhism, and in particular because of our demographic situation where many of our Buddhist parents have English as a second language, there is a major shortage of volunteers teachers. If you’re interested, contact the Buddhist Council in your state.