Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Uses for the OIA: Uncovering the Bible in schools

David Hines has a remarkable OIA project on religious education in state primary schools. Over the past year he has requested information from every state primary school in New Zealand - over 1800 of them - seeking information on whether they run religious education classes (and if so what), when they run them etc. While 260 schools have simply (and unlawfully) refused to answer, its a tremendous dataset. And the core finding is that

[the] survey has identified 578 schools which have religious instruction classes, run in school hours, outside the NZ Curriculum. I believe there are about 260 more still to be identified.

Its unclear at this stage whether "school hours" includes temporary closures under s78 of the Education Act 1964. If it does not - that is, if these schools are running their religious instruction classes in actual school hours, not lunchtimes or when the school is "temporarily closed" for Christians but not atheists, then that would be unlawful.

Hines also has a review of three main syllabuses on offer.

Meanwhile, there's the other implicit finding: over 1000 of 1800 schools - over half the total - were "reluctant" to answer the OIA request and had to be persuaded to do so by the Ombudsman. 260 are still defying the Ombudsman. The level of contempt for the law by school administrators is appalling. And we trust these people to educate our future citizens?