A new curriculum for teaching religion in Wales mandates that atheism be given “equal footing” with Christianity and any other faith.
And it might even be emphasized more.
The U.K.’s Christian Institute said the Welsh parliament has voted to replace its previous religious education standards for schools with new “Religion, Values and Ethics” training that is compulsory.
“A plan to give atheists a veto over any religious teaching in schools was dropped, but the Curriculum and Assessment (Wales) Bill allows for disproportionate time to be spent studying Humanism or atheism,” the institute said.
“We are absolutely delighted that the [parliament] has passed this bill, after many years of campaigning by Wales Humanists, humanism will be put on an equal footing with religions throughout the curriculum,” said Kathy Riddick of Wales Humanists.
The new standards, to be implemented in 2022, will be compulsory.
The right for parents to withdraw their children from unwanted religious indoctrination or sex education lessons was removed.
The institute noted there will also be no limit on the percentage of time devoted to beliefs such as atheism or humanism, “meaning teaching about Christianity could be marginalized.”
Gareth Edwards, the institute’s officer for issues involving Wales, pointed out the government ignored the fact the public opposed the changes.
“In the last census only 815 people said they were humanists in the whole of Wales. Why have they been handed such influence over the content of religious teaching in schools?” he asked.
The changes also include the new “Relationships and Sexuality Education” teachings and will “abolish a number of decades-old safeguards preventing unsuitable materials from being taught,” the institute said.
Edwards said Christians “will still be able to have a positive influence in schools by responding to the public consultation on the RSE code in due course, and parents should also expect to be consulted by their schools before changes are brought in.”
It’s the biggest change for education in Wales in more than 30 years.
Education minister Kirsty Williams said the objective is to prepare children for a “globally connected world where we all have computers in our pockets.”
The curriculum also includes Welsh, English, sex and “literacy, numeracy, and digital competence.”
Teachers union officials endorsed the changes but warned it will take more time to implement them because of COVID-19 restrictions.
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