A new report says teaching kids about religion at school encourages multiculturalism.
A new report says teaching kids about religion at school encourages multiculturalism.

How fighting extremism could start in the classroom

FIGHTING religious extremism could start in the classroom, according to a new report which highlights the importance of multiculturalism to kids.

"The goal of teaching students how to live harmoniously with others in a contemporary and diverse society is a pillar of modern education," the report says.

The report was written by world-renowned academics Professor Zehavit Gross (the UNESCO/Burg Chair in Education in Human Values, Tolerance and Peace at Bar-Ilan University, Israel) and Professor Emerita Suzanne Rutland, of the University of Sydney.

It was released by Christian RI (Religion Instruction) and Multi-Faith to highlight the role of teaching children about faith in the classroom.

Children in Queensland and New South Wales still have the legal right to R.I. enrolment with parent permission.

The report says that with most students having higher access to different ideologies on social media, opportunity for students to discuss topics regarding religion in a safe environment is limited.

"Religious education teachers could discuss the fear and concern which affected Muslim, Christian and Jewish students in Australia," the report found.

This stands in contrast to stereotypes of R.I. being a catalyst for fundamentalism or Bible-bashing.

Professor Gross, an academic leading the report said, "Religion continues to play a major role in our public life and acknowledges the legitimate spiritual needs of each individual."

The report showed that R.I. was effective in reducing ideological extremism and is fundamental in "dismantling stereotypes and strengthening social cohesion".

The report contradicts many of political groups seeking to secularise school environments, several conducting numerous polls earlier this year.

"Multicultural education is a key achievement in achieving this."

"A strong grounding in one's individual identity, combined with knowledge of other religions, helps to combat extremism by teaching respect for diversity."

Rev. David Baker, spokesperson for the Multi-faith body, said that R.I. played a vital role in allowing parents to choose how their child explores spirituality. 

Professor Gross and Professor Rutland presented a lecture concerning their findings to Parliament House in Sydney on Monday, and will be in Brisbane today to talk to faith and R.I. leaders.

The author of this story was previously employed by Christian Religious Education Program.