Nikki Kaye wants to “modernise” the Education Portfolio

nikki kaye
Nikki Kaye - Minister of Education
nikki kaye
Nikki Kaye – Minister of Education

A recent NZ Herald article on new Education Minister, Nikki Kaye stated that she wanted to”modernise the education portfolio”. This is of special interest to me, as I fail to see how this can be done without first removing the ability of “Board of Trustees approved groups” to indoctrinate primary school children in their chosen religious faith. How can we say we are helping our children by providing them with the latest technology, if they first have to sit through a class promoting a belief system created by people who had no idea where the sun went at night?

Nikki Kaye certainly can’t do any worse on this issue than her predecessor, Hekia Parata, whose response to parent complaints about religious instruction was to tell them that they should “choose a different school“. Nice! Nikki Kaye comes with impressive qualifications. She has a Science Degree in Genetics from the University of Otago and a Bachelor of Law from Wellington.  Here’s my email to Nikki Kaye…

Hi Nikki,

I wanted to applaud your goal of modernising the education portfolio and give some comments on the rather contentious issue of religious instruction.

My Daughter is 7. When she started school in 2015, I was surprised to find that access was still being given to religious groups so that they could spread their faith in supposedly secular NZ state primary schools. The very first class they give to 5 year olds teaches the creation story as fact. The classes are pure religious indoctrination, often promoted under the guise of “values teaching”. There is no objective study of religion or alternative opinion given.

I complained and followed the proper channels of speaking to teachers, followed by the principal, who made excuses and clearly had no intention of addressing the issue. I then gave a presentation to the school Board of Trustees. They justified their decision to allow the classes based on 6% of the school community voting for it in response to a misleading question in a school survey. They have repeatedly avoided addressing questions or concerns I’ve raised. I contacted the MOE to complain and hit a brick wall.

I cannot understate the level of resistance to rational enquiry around the issue of religious instruction.

  • The Human Rights Commission hear several complaints a year about harm done through RI in schools but publicly remain silent.
  • The NZ School Trustees Association have made recommendations for (minor) changes to the way RI is handled under the recent Education Act reviews but have refused to answer my question of why they did not recommend religious instruction be removed.
  • The MOE are simply not interested in addressing the issue and have ignored advice from their own legal team (in 2001) stating that the classes are discriminatory under the Human Rights Act.
  • The NZEI have not reviewed their policy on religious instruction since the 1980’s, do not pro-actively survey their members on it and have made no submissions on it.
  • Teachers are between a rock and a hard place, where they have to stand aside to allow unqualified church volunteers indoctrinate children in religious faith while they watch. They act against it at risk of creating conflict within the school.
  • Non-religious parents often feel coerced into allowing their children attend the classes. They don’t want their children to feel left out or put them at risk of negative attention from their peers.

In short, you cannot modernise the education portfolio without addressing the intellectually dishonest practice of religious instruction classes and remove this discriminatory religious privilege. I wish you the best of luck!

Dave Smyth

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