A VIGOROUS public debate is needed on how schools can better embrace Western values after a teachers' handbook, demanding a global Islamic caliphate, was found at a south west Sydney private college.
NSW Education Minister Rob Stokes has called for a core set of values for schools, following an investigation into Bellfield College where teachers were required to inform students that secularism was the "worst enemy of mankind" and that "peace, stability and justice can only be achieved through the establishment of Islam". The Rossmore school voluntarily agreed to remove the references in the handbook after the intervention of the Department of Education.
The controversy follows the sacking of Punchbowl High School principal Chris Griffiths earlier this year. The Department of Education found increased disengagement from the local community under the Muslim convert's leadership, and a high level of staff disunity and disharmony. Mr Griffith was appointed principal at Punchbowl in late 2015, taking over from Jihad Dib, who is the now the State Labor MP for Lakemba.
Mr Dib said while he welcomed debate on core values in schools, he would also like to see the anti-radicalisation program, 'Schools Community Together', broadened to include schools statewide.
"This program deals with the broader issue of student radicalism, and addresses it in its infancy," he said.
Mr Dib said he visited Punchbowl Boys High recently, where he witnessed a vast improvement in the school's spirit and community engagement since the departure of Mr Griffith.
Meanwhile Minister Stokes says there is a need to enshrine basic values such as upholding democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, equality and mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs in the school system. Core values statements have been developed in school systems in the United Kingdom and Victoria and Mr Stokes said these experiences could support schools in NSW.