Religion back on school syllabus

Sydney, Australia - RELIGION will return to Australia's state school classrooms, with students expected to study beliefs from the Aboriginal Dreamtime to the Koran.

A high-powered team of academics working on a chronology of Australian history are united on threading a religious narrative through history teaching, but as an issue rather than a matter of faith.

Federal Education MInister Julie Bishop has now thrown her support behind the move, saying history cannot be properly taught without examining religion's influence.

The Catholic-Protestant divide which defined Australian pre-war society looks set to be one area of inquiry, with the bitter conscription referendum of 1916-17 possibly appearing on the chronology.

Aboriginal spiritual beliefs and their impact on mainstream society (as seen in the Olympics opening ceremony) are also believed to be under consideration.

Examinations of the Muslim and Jewish religions, the Christian Bible and the Koran may form part of the curriculum.

"Religion has played a key role in many aspects of society including the legal system, many charitable organisations, the education sector, government and much more," Ms Bishop said last night.

"It would not be possible to explain fully the development of Australian society without including religion in the history curriculum."

Professor Tom Stannage, who attended last month's Canberra History Summit said delegates were united in their desire for students to examine religion's role in shaping society.

But educators also recognised a thirst among young Australians for religious education expressed in an historical rather than spiritual context.

"The difficult question is the way we go about it, introducing it into the syllabus.

"I think as Julie Bishop herself said, the commonsense middle ground can prevail in these matters."