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Incorporating Buddhist values in schools

By Leanne Coleman

Dr Sue Smith’s research discusses how Buddhist values and ethics might relate to state education Dr Sue Smith’s research discusses how Buddhist values and ethics might relate to state education

The principles of Buddhism and how these can operate in the Australian education system is the focus of a new book by a Charles Darwin University researcher.

The book “Buddhist Voices in School – How a Community Created a Buddhist Education Program for State Schools” written by Dr Sue Smith discusses how Buddhist values and ethics might relate to state education.

The book is based on Dr Smith’s PhD research through the Victoria University into religious instruction classes in Victoria and explores using concepts such as “mindfulness” and meditation in Australian schools.

“Buddhist principles such as wisdom, kindness, compassion, inter-dependence and personal responsibility should have a clear place in any education system,” Dr Smith said. “Many of these values are what the system aspires to instil in young people and the lessons teachers aim to teach.” 

Dr Smith said some of the concepts had much to offer and would enhance the wellbeing of young people, along with broadening their cultural knowledge and addressing issues of equity and representation.

“The place of religion in the state school system is somewhat of a ‘hot potato’,” she said. “Within Australian schools there are young people coming together to work and learn together from a variety of cultural backgrounds.

“This concept is about bringing the community together to talk about perceived gaps in the school system and creating a community adapted program that fits with contemporary education.”

Dr Smith uses a case study of how community adapted Buddha-Dharma (teachings) can be used in primary school classes to enhance social and emotional learning.

“In these classes students were involved in ethical explorations and meditation,” she said. “Throughout the case study we found the students revealed how they had become calm, focused, and developed kindness, resilience and an improved ability to make choices through participation.

“By distinguishing spiritual education from religion and bringing the community together with teachers and parents to build the approach, these programs can make valuable contributions to current pedagogy. This can also help students to appreciate multiple perspectives, enquire and contribute their ideas on various cultural perspectives.”

Dr Smith said the techniques and principles used in the program could be of great value to educators across Australia.

Dr Smith is running a new program in the Northern Territory entitled the “Well Network”, which has been initiated within the School of Education at CDU. The network seeks to draw together teachers in remote NT in a range of face-to-face and online discussion forums for the purpose of enhancing teacher wellbeing.

A free one day seminar and workshop for NT teachers entitled “Personal Resilience and Positive Connections” will be held at 9am to 4.30pm Saturday, 12 April 2014 at CDU. For more information visit W: