A thirst for knowledge of ancient history and religion in NSW schools

Rev. Peter Kurti

Rising levels of school retention rates have contributed to record enrolments for this year’s HSC exams, with nearly 23,000 students taking part.

But some interesting and surprising trends have emerged from these figures. While the sciences have held steady according to the NSW Board of Studies, some subjects are fading in their appeal.

Interest in geography has declined steadily since 1998; the same trend can be seen in modern history, economics and information technology, according to figures from the Board of Studies.

It seems that students are now reaching further back into the story of early human civilisation, with ancient history studies increasing in popularity. Only 6,740 students opted for the topic in 1995 – in 2010, that figure doubled to 12,269.

Religion has also surged in popularity with a mere 4,834 students sitting the exam in 1995. Fast forward to 2010 and that figure had risen to 14,182.

Not that The Sydney Morning Herald considered it necessary to mention this, let alone its significance, in a recent article about the changing mindset of students.

According to the NSW Board of Studies, ‘religion has been and is an integral part of human experience and a component of every culture,’ and the increased enrolments suggest students are increasingly aware of this fact.

Through the study of religion, students are gaining an appreciation of society and how it has influenced human behaviour in different cultures. And they seem to be thinking this through for themselves. Perhaps they have also grown weary of sneering secularism and the postmodern scepticism about religion in popular culture.


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