Private-school faithful come in many creeds

19 February 2013

Senior lecturer Dr Helen Proctor has been interviewed for a Sydney Morning Herald story highlighting the rising popularity of religious schools among non-believers.

According to the article by Josephine Tovey and Georgina Mitchell, the latest data gathered by the Australian Bureau of Statistics has shown that the popularity of religious schools is increasing (up by 1.8 per cent in 2012) despite a record number of Australians identifying as having no religious conviction.

Dr Proctor – who in 2009 wrote School Choice: How Parents Negotiate the New School Markets in Australia with fellow faculty academics Associate Professor Craig Campbell and Professor Geoffrey Sherington– told the journalists the trend was "one of the great paradoxes of Australian education".

"We're one of the least religious nations in the world, yet we have this large and increasing attendance of children in religious schools." In an online poll accompanying the Sydney Morning Herald article, readers were split into three opinion groups of approximately one-third each over whether it was disingenuous for non-religious families to send their children to religious schools: 31 per cent of respondents said, "Yes. If you don't believe the teachings, why are you there"; 33 per cent said, "A little bit. It would be better if there were more non-religious private schools"; and 36 per cent said, "No. There's just no other option. And it helps to have a grounding in religion anyway".