Monday, June 17, 2013

Against karakia in schools

Over the weekend the Herald reported that teachers at Kelston Intermediate were objecting to being forced to lead pupils in a karakia every morning. They're right. The Education Act 1964 is crystal clear: teaching at intermediate schools (which are primary schools according to the Act's interpretation clauce) "shall be entirely of a secular character". That means that prayers in any language are inappropriate, and pretending its a "cultural practice" doesn't change that. If the school wants to hold religious observances, it must either do it outside normal school hours, or seek special permission from the Minister - and in both cases attendance cannot be compulsory. And regardless, it is inappropriate (and a violation of the right to freedom of religion) to require teachers to lead such observances.

This is settled law, and the school's Board of trustees should know that. And so should Pita Sharples. While karakia may be entirely normal in pupil's homes, it is not appropriate in schools. Compulsory schooling is not a vehicle for the religious beliefs of the majority to be rammed in the face of the minority (or vice versa, for that matter).

Meanwhile, its worth noting that while primary students are protected in this way, because secondary education was not compulsory when the original clause was passed in 1914, high school students are not. That has to change. Anyone want to take a member's bill to do it?