The introduction of Primary Ethics classes in public schools across Australia has provided a valuable alternative learning opportunity for students whose parents don’t wish to take Special Religious Education. The other option is non-Special Religious Education, with some schools in the region offering Primary Ethics.
Taught solely by volunteers, the classes adhere to a strict curriculum that is split into four parts; Kindergarten (early stage 1), Years 1/2 (stage 1), Years 3/4 (stage 2) and Years 5/6 (stage 3). Parents and students who don’t wish to take Special Religious Education can choose between non-Special Religious Education or Primary Ethics when filling out the school application. Ideas such as friendship are introduced in Kindergarten and are then extended over the next few years in topics focussing on courage, pride, boasting and greed. Students learn to recognise good and bad moral reasoning early on by introducing notions such as relevance and the difference between relevance and truth. Throughout the curriculum children are encouraged to provide reasons to support their arguments.
To teach Primary Ethics all volunteers must complete police checks, working with children checks and attend a two-day course. The lesson plans are based on a strict curriculum that is available online. Canowindra residents Nik Henry, Liz Mitchell and Margi Crowther completed their induction in September and have been teaching in the Cabonne region since then. “There’s a bit of confusion around the subject,” said Nik Henry; “Primary Ethics is not in competition nor is it a replacement for scripture. All it’s for it to provide an alternative to non-scripture. It’s not telling kids what’s right and wrong, it’s the kids themselves discussing it.”
“We’re always looking for volunteers” said Nik; “Margi, Liz and myself are happy to chat about any queries anyone may have.” For those interested in volunteering there is a blog for volunteers to post questions and step-by-step lesson plans online. “The teaching process is very tight so the facilitators are not able to bring in their own personal beliefs of judgements, they’re left at the door,” said Nik; “So far it’s been well received and classes are getting bigger so it’s nice to know the option is being considered by parents.” For more information go to www.primaryethics.com.au