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Religious Schools exempted from Network Reviews

Religious Schools exempted from Education Network Reviews

Media Release: N Z Association of Rationalists and Humanists. 4-2-2004

Religious Schools exempted from Education Network Reviews

The Education Network Reviews currently being carried out by the Ministry of Education will result in the closure of many public schools, but will not affect state-funded religious schools. These "Integrated Schools", which are run by religious bodies but financed by the taxpayer, will continue to enjoy an unfair advantage while the nation's public schools suffer cutbacks and closures. The children of the religious and the rich enjoy a privileged education at public expense, while opportunities for most students are reduced. The NZ Association of Rationalists and Humanists believes this is a national scandal and is urging the Education Minister to merge or close Integrated Schools before allowing any public school to close.

Integrated schools are funded by the Ministry of Education, just as public schools are, but they enjoy several advantages. An integrated school has all its costs paid by the Ministry of Education, but can also charge substantial fees to finance capital projects, such as new facilities. If these improvements bring in more students and require more teaching staff, the Ministry is obliged to pay for them, as well as paying maintenance costs. The school, despite receiving large amounts of the public's money, can refuse any student whose parents do not hold the right religious opinions. The Education Minister, despite providing all this funding, has no control over the school and no power to close it or to merge it with any other school. Integrated schools in effect are taxpayer-funded private religious schools.

The Integrated Schools system was created in 1974 after lobbying by Catholic authorities, and its principle purpose was to provide state support for Catholic schools. The system has been remarkably successful in this respect. It has created a network of wealthy, well-resourced schools that provide a Catholic education for the children of parents who meet the religious requirements and can afford to pay the fees. The Anglican and Presbyterian churches run similar schools. These institutions are indistinguishable from private schools, except the massive state subsidies they enjoy mean they can charge considerably lower fees.

There are also schools run by various Christian Fundamentalist churches and other organisations that have the status of integrated schools. Their purpose is not education but indoctrination. Their world-view is sectarian and intolerant. Many do not follow the National Curriculum but use instruction programmes designed to train students in dogma. Most New Zealanders would be surprised to know that there are publicly funded schools that teach, in Science classes, that the World was created in 6 days less than 10,000 years ago.

Our public school system provides a quality education, regardless of income or religious prejudice. Under the current review process, public schools will be closed while integrated schools are exempt from scrutiny. The Ministry of Education is aware of this issue and has published a discussion document on the subject. The NZ Association of Rationalists and Humanists believes the Education Act should be amended to include integrated schools in Network Reviews and to allow the Education Minister to close them or merge them with public schools. In time, we hope all integrated schools will be merged into the public school system, where children can receive an education free of charge and free of dogma.


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