The following are some common questions which school community and parent organizations may ask when considering the adoption of a Buddhist program in their school. We are happy to discuss these further or any other issues which may be of concern to you.
1. Are the teachers qualified?
A certificate will be given to people who have completed the training stating that:
- they are volunteers, not teachers within the Department of Education and Early Childhood
- they have completed a training course of 15 hours that has been accredited by Department of Education and Early Childhood
- they have had a Working With Child Check
- they are endorsed by a senior person from their spiritual community
- they are working under the auspices of the Buddhist Council of Victoria
2. Have you got the approval of the Department of Education and Early Childhood to run the program?
Yes. The Religions for Peace Australia is the body which the Victorian Department of Education and Early Childhood has authorized to facilitate the accreditation process for Buddhist Religious Instructor in Victorian Schools program.
3. Are you going to convert our students into Buddhists? I am a bit concerned about that.
No, this is not an issue in Buddhism. The Buddha himself did not teach ‘blind faith’ but that one should first try out the teachings and see if one agreed with them or not. The same approach is taken in children’s classes. There is no dogmatism. Probably a number of students will already be coming from Buddhist backgrounds so that issue will not arise. Students attending the classes from other faith backgrounds will be doing so with permission from their parents. The classes will be offered in a way that presents information but does not proselytize.
4. Please let me know the course content, its structure and the mode of delivery.
The curriculum consists of modules on the life of the Buddha and his foundation teachings, along with the Jataka Tales - fable like stories with clear values. Simple meditation instructions at a level suitable for children will also be given. As well, classes will learn about Buddhist festivals and cultural aspects. The methodology will be in keeping with contemporary educational thought and practice, involving the children and encouraging co-operation and enjoyment in learning. Copies of the course content and structure will be made available to schools.
5. What level of students are appropriate for the course? Prep, Year 1 or Year 6? Is it suitable for primary school?
The course has been specifically designed to meet the needs of primary students from Years 3-6.
6. What sort of resources and support do you expect the school management to provide?
We require: (a) a suitable classroom, preferably with a carpet; (b) the class teacher to be present if that is possible; (c) an appropriate time for the classes; (d) space in the newsletter to notify parents; (e) appropriate numbers – ideally 10 to 20 (maximum) students, but this will be negotiable; and (f) if possible, use of the school’s VCR
7. Can you send me more details about the course?
Yes, we are happy to.
8. Are you happy to give a presentation to the School Council / Parents Teachers Association?
Yes, that can be arranged. A representative can address School Councils and parent meetings.
9. I am interested in what you said but I don’t know how the students and their parents will respond. It’s pretty hard for me to make a commitment now. Would it be a good idea to do a trial run of one or two sessions to test the water?
Yes – delivery will be flexible and we are very happy to consider a pilot program.
10. Will there be a cost?
No. The program is offered free of charge. There may be a small charge to cover materials.
11. How will this be different from the Values Education component in our curriculum?
The classes support any values education program already running in the school. They affirm the backgrounds of students from Buddhist and Asian cultures. The classes promote universal values within a more specific context.
12. How will the course benefit the school?
Buddhist classes have a lot to offer the whole school community. Most importantly it is a good means for working towards the development of the whole child – spiritual, as well as intellectual and physical. In addition, Buddhist classes will:
- create an opportunity to affirm students from different backgrounds, by teaching about their cultural heritage;
- offer students new skills and approaches to life;
- compliment mainstream curriculum by offering activities around Asian literature, history, art, social customs, festivals etc;
- emphasize peace, harmony and tolerance and the means by which to practise these;
- provide children with the opportunity to meet visitors and teachers from different cultural and religious backgrounds, e.g. monks and nuns from local Buddhist temples; the popular Gyuto monks who work with music and sand mandalas and Buddhist lay people from Asian and Australian backgrounds; and
- teach the practice of meditation.