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Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe

versión On-line ISSN 2224-7912
versión impresa ISSN 0041-4751


OOSTHUIZEN, Izak J  y  VAN DER WALT, Johannes L. Values-driven education in the context of religious freedom as human right. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2021, vol.61, n.1, pp.57-70. ISSN 2224-7912.

The basic task of schools is to assist learners in mastering certain prescribed learning materials by means of processes of learning. In South Africa, content knowledge and skills such as these are prescribed in the Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement (2011). All schools, irrespective of the education systems of which they form part, also display in the course of such processes of teaching and learning the values and ethos of the school communities that they serve. No form of education, development or formation, therefore, is ever free of the values inextricably linked to particular conceptions of life; instead, it always attests to a particular spiritual, religious or life-conceptual orientation. School communities, that is, the parents, the teachers, the surrounding community and the broader civic community, tend to expect of schools that they be more than simply teaching-learning institutions; in other words, they expect them to be formative or educative teaching-learning institutions as well. Put differently, schools are expected to attend also to the following formative aspects in the course of the teaching-learning processes: guidance of the learners, assistance in their development, support of their interests, formation, equipment, enablement and exemplary norms. The religious and life-conceptual values held by the school community come to the fore when the governing body, in the process of drafting the school's vision and mission statements, searches for answers to the following questions associated with such formative processes: • To what ends should the learners be guided? • How, and for what purpose should their potential be developed? • How and why should they be lovingly cared for? • To what ends should they be developed, physically and spiritually? • For what purpose and how should they be equipped? What will their future duties and responsibilities as adults entail? • How and why should they be enabled; what should they be able to do and what should they strive for? • Which norms have to be set for them to emulate in their own lives, and how should this be done? The answers to the abovementioned questions contain some or other deeper religious, spiritual or life-conceptual dimension, a dimension that is typical of the identity of the school. (Life-conceptual neutrality, therefore, is also a manifestation of a school's identity.) For schools, including those in the public sector, to be able to live and work in accordance with their religious, spiritual or life-conceptual identity, they require the space afforded to them by their nation's recognition of freedom of religion as a human right. In South Africa, this basic human right has since 1996 been ensconced in the Constitution, and has since also been consistently enforced in legislation and in jurisprudence. The question remains, however, whether schools are allowed to freely express their unique value-drivenness (value-driven educative teaching and learning) in the current legal milieu. Analysis of the Constitutional entrenchment of religious freedom as human right, of general and education legislation and of jurisprudence since 1996 reveals that, although all the current provisions regarding the recognition of religious freedom as human right do provide space and scope for schools freely to express their life-conceptual identities, some minor changes to the legal provisions could still be considered. These include adapting the current National Policy on Religion in Education (2003) to explicitly accommodate the notion of a diversity of school communities, each with its own unique life-conceptual and religious character and identity, and hence unique mission statement. The SA Schools Act (1996) could also be slightly adapted to state in clearer terms that school governing bodies are allowed to choose a unique religious/life-conceptual character and identity; that they may formulate the school's ethos and mission statement based on its identity; and that all public schools, irrespective of religious/ life-conceptual identity and character, are equitably funded by the state. It should also be stipulated that no school, irrespective of life-conceptual identity, is allowed to be exclusive or discriminate against learners ascribing to different religious convictions. Schools should strive to uphold the principles of justice, equality and voluntariness in seeking to embrace a policy of accommodation. Another possible change that could be considered is to ensure that the SA Schools Act (1996) stipulate explicitly that school governing bodies are entitled to formulate mission statements for their respective schools, based on the principles of non-discrimination, freedom, equality and voluntariness with respect to learners from groups with different religious/life-conceptual orientations. The Act should, finally, also provide for public schools to possess and display a religious/life-conceptual character and identity, as determined by their governing bodies. It should allow for parents, teachers and learners, amenable to the stated religious/ life-conceptual model to occupy a particular school, while at the same time taking care not to impair the freedom of religion of other religious groups.

Palabras clave : human rights; religious freedom; values; teaching and learning; education; school identity.

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