National policy on education
As a democratic society with a diverse population of different cultures, languages and religions we are duty bound to ensure that through our diversity we develop a unity of purpose and spirit that recognises and celebrates our diversity. This should be particularly evident in our public schools where no particular religious ethos should be dominant over and suppress others. Just as we must ensure and protect the equal rights of all students to be at school, we must also appreciate their right to have their religious views recognised and respected.
We do not have a state religion. But our country is not a secular state where there is a very strict separation between religion and the state. The Policy recognises the rich and diverse religious heritage of our country and adopts a cooperative model that accepts our rich heritage and the possibility of creative inter-action between schools and faith whilst, protecting our young people from religious discrimination or coercion. What we are doing through this Policy is to extend the concept of equity to the relationship between religion and education, in a way that recognises the rich religious diversity of our land. In the Policy, we do not impose any narrow prescriptions or ideological views regarding the relationship between religion and education. Following the lead of the Constitution and the South African Schools Act, we provide a broad framework within which people of goodwill will work out their own approaches. The Policy is neither negative nor hostile towards any religion or faith and does not discriminate against anyone.
Rather it displays a profound respect towards religious faith and affirms the importance of the study of religion and religious observances. Professor Kader Asmal Minister of Education STAATSKOERANT, 12 SEPTEMBER 2003 No. 25459 Introduction to the Policy on Religion and Education 1. In this document we set out the policy on the relationship between religion and education that we believe will best serve the interests of our democratic society. The objective is to influence and shape this relationship, in a manner that is in accordance with the values of our South African Constitution1.
In recognising the particular value of the rich and diverse religious heritage of our country, we identify the distinctive contribution that religion can make to education, and that education can make to teaching and learning about religion, and we therefore promote the role of religion in education. In doing so we work from the premise that the public school has an educational responsibility for teaching and learning about religion and religions, and for promoting these, but that it should do so in ways that are different from the religious instruction and religiousnurture provided by the home, family, and religious community. 2. We do so also in the recognition that there have been instances in which public education institutions have discriminated on the grounds of religious belief, such that greater definition is required. In many cases pupils of one religion are subjected to religious observances in another, without any real choice in the matter. The policy is not prescriptive, but provides a framework for schools to determine policies, and for parents and communities to be better informed of their rights and responsibilities in regard to religion and education.
The policy genuinely advances the interests of religion, by advocating a broad based range of religious activities in the school. 3. In clarifying the relationship between religion and education, we might consider four possible models for structuring the relationship between religion and the state: A theocratic model identifies the state with one particular religion or religious grouping. In some cases, this model has resulted in a situation in which the state and religion become indistinguishable.
In a religiously diverse society such as South Africa, this model clearly would be inappropriate. At the other extreme, a repressionist model is based on the premise that the state should act to suppress religion. In such a model, the state would operate to 1 The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa (Act 108 of 1996) No. 25459 GOVERNMENT GAZETTE, 12 SEPTEMBER 2003 marginalise or eliminate religion from public life. In a religiously active society such as South Africa, any constitutional model based on state hostility towards religion would be unthinkable.
We reject both the theocratic model of the religious state, such as the ‘Christian-National’ state in our own history that tried to impose religion in public institutions, as well as any repressionist model that would adopt a hostile stance towards religion. A modern secular state, which is neither religious nor anti -religious, in principle adopts a position of impartiality towards all religions and other woridviews. A separationist model for the secular state represents an attempt to completely divorce the religious and secular spheres of a society, such as in France or the United States.
Drawing strict separation between religion and the secular state is extremely difficult to implement in practice, since there is considerable interchange between religion and public life. Furthermore, a strict separation between the two spheres of religion and state is not desirable, since without the commitment and engagement of religious bodies it is difficult to see us improving the quality of life of all our people. In a co-operative model, both the principle of legal separation and the possibility of creative interaction are affirmed.
Separate spheres for religion and the state are established by the Constitution, but there is scope for interaction between the two. While ensuring the protection of citizens from religious discrimination or coercion, this model encourages an ongoing dialogue between religious groups and the state in areas of common interest and concern. Even in such exchanges, however, religious individuals and groups must be assured of their freedom from any state interference with regard to freedom of conscience, religion, thought, belief, and opinion.
In regard to the relationship between religion and public education, we propose that the cooperative model which combines constitutional separation and mutual recognition, provides a framework that is best for religion and best for education in a democratic South Africa. STAATSKOERANT 12 SEPTEMBER 2003 5. No. 25459 Under the constitutional guarantee of freedom of religion, the state, neither advancing nor inhibiting religion, must assume a position of fairness, informed by a parity of esteem for all religions, and worldviews.
This positive impartiality carries a profound appreciation of spirituality and religion in its many manifestations, as reflected by the deference to God in the preamble to our Constitution, but does not impose these. . Background to the policy on Religion and Education 6. This Policy for Religion and Education is the result of many years of research and consultation. This commenced with the National Education Policy Investigation of the early 1990s, was taken further in the National Education and Training Forum during the transitional period of 1993-1994, and in the extensive consultations around the South African Schools Act, prior to 1996.
It was further developed by the Ministerial Committee on Religious Education in 1999, and the Standing Advisory Committee on Religion and Education, established for this purpose in 2002. Reviewing the progress made in all of this work, we see an emerging consensus about the relationship between religion and education. 7. This policy links religion and education with new initiatives in cultural rebirth (the African Renaissance), moral regeneration, and the promotion of values in our schools.
Religion can play a significant role in preserving our heritage, respecting our diversity, and building a future based on progressive values. 8. To achieve these goals, the relationship between religion and education must be guided by the following principles: In all aspects of the relationship between religion and education, the practice must flow directly from the constitutional values of citizenship, human rights, equality, freedom from discrimination, and freedom of conscience, religion, thought, belief, and opinion.
Public institutions have a responsibility to teach about religion and religions in ways that reflect a profound appreciation of the spiritual, non -material aspects of life, but which are different from the religious education, religious instruction, or religious nurture provided by the home, family, and religious community. Religion Education should contribute to creating an integrated and informed No. 25459 GOVERNMENT GAZETTE, 12 SEPTEMBER 2003 community that affirms unity in diversity. Teaching about religion, religions, and religious diversity needs to be facilitated by trained professionals, and programmes in Religion Educationmust be supported by appropriate and credible teaching and learning materials, and objective assessment criteria. The Context 9. South Africa is a multi-religious country. Over 60 per cent of our people claim allegiance to Christianity, but South Africa is home to a wide variety of religious traditions. With a deep and enduring indigenous religious heritage, South Africa is a country that also embraces the major religions of the world. Each of these religions is itself a diverse category, encompassing many different understandings and practices.
At the same time, many South Africans draw their understanding of the world, ethical principles, and human values from sources independent of religious institutions. In the most profound matters of life orientation, therefore, diversity is a fact of our national life. 10. Our diversity of language, culture and religion is a wonderful national asset. We therefore celebrate diversity as a unifying national resource, as captured in our Coat of Arms: ! Ke E:/Xarra //ke (Unity in Diversity). This policy for the role of religion in education is driven by the dual mandate of celebrating diversity and building national unity. Values 11.
This policy for the role of religion in education flows directly from the Constitutional values of citizenship, human rights, equality, freedom from discrimination, and freedom for conscience, religion, thought, belief, and opinion. By enshrining these basic values, the Constitution provides the framework for determining the relationship between religion and education in a democratic society 12. Our Constitution has worked out a careful balance between freedom for religious belief and expression and freedom from religious coercion and discrimination. On the one hand, by ensuring that “Everyone has the right to freedom of conscience, religion,
STAATSKOERANT, 12 SEPTEMBER 2003 No. 25459 thought, belief, and opinion”, the Constitution2 guarantees freedom of and for religion, and citizens are free to exercise their basic right to religious conviction, expression, and association. On the other hand, by ensuring equality in the enjoyment of all the rights, privileges, and benefits of citizenship, the Constitution explicitly prohibits unfair discrimination on grounds that include religion, belief, and conscience. Protected from any discriminatory practices based on religion, citizens are thereby also free from any religious coercion that might be implied by the state.
The South African Schools Act (Act 94 of 1996) upholds the constitutional rights of all citizens to freedom of conscience, religion, thought, belief and opinion, and freedom from unfair discrimination on any grounds whatsoever, including religion, in public education institutions. 14. Within this constitutional framework, public schools have a calling to promote the core values of a democratic society, through the curriculum, through extra -curricular activities, and in the way that they approach religious festivals, school uniforms and even diets.
As identified in the report of the ministerial committee on values in education, these core values include equity, tolerance, multilingual ism, openness, accountability, and social honour. Our policy on religion in education must be consistent with these values, and the practices of schools may be tested against the following national priorities: Equity: The education process in general, and this policy, must aim at the development of a national democratic culture with respect for the value of all of our people’s diverse cultural, religious and linguistic traditions.
Tolerance: Religion in education must contribute to the advancement of inter- religious toleration and interpersonal respect among adherents of different religious or secular worldviews in a shared civil society. Diversity: In the interest of advancing informed respect for diversity, educational institutions have a responsibility for promoting multi-religious knowledge, understanding, and appreciation of religions in South Africa and the world. Openness: Schools, together with the broader society, play a role in culturalformation and transmission, and educational institutions must promote a spirit of openness in which there shall be no overt or covert attempt to indoctrinate pupils 2 Sections 15(1) and (2) of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa 11 No. 25469 GOVERNMENT GAZETTE, 12 SEPTEMBER 2003 into any particular belief or religion. Accountability : As systems of human accountability, religions cultivate moral values and ethical commitments that can be recognised as resources for learning and as vital contributions to nation building.
Social Honour: While honouring the linguistic, cultural, religious or secular backgrounds of all pupils, educational institutions cannot allow the overt or covert denigration of any religion or secular world-view. THE POLICY Application 15. The policy covers the different aspects of Religion Education, Religious Instruction and Religious Observances, and is applicable in all public schools. The spirit of the policy, which is to embrace the religious diversity of South Africa, must also be applied at other levels of the education system, including District, Provincial and National level gatherings.