Press release

Thursday - 4 October 2012
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The signatory organizations have sent the Minister of Education, Mrs. Ecaterian Andronescu, an open letter (see text below the press release) expressing their concern regarding the contents of religion textbooks used in schools and asking the Ministry (MECTS) to place this subject under public debate.

Their letter follows an initiative launched in March, when part of the signatory organizations took part in consultations regarding the curriculum for grade 0 (preparatory class) in religion and information technology.

At the beginning of the school year, we have noted not just a cessation of the formal dialogue launched in March, but also a partisan positioning of the Ministry of Education, with a public statement that only mentions one consultation partner for the changes in the religion textbooks – the Patriarchy. ( http://www.hotnews.ro/stiri-esential-13291820-ecaterina-andronescu-ministerul-educatieiconlucra- biserica-pentru-imbunatatirea-programei-religie.htm ).

The organizations warn about the risk of confessional teaching from textbooks that contain wordings inappropriate for young ages and which may promote a de-modernization process defined by intolerance, xenophobia, mistrust for scientific education/health education/critical thinking education. The signatory organizations are willing to place at the disposal of the Ministry studies and recommendations in that respect.

We consider that the partnership between the Ministry and parents, representatives of specialized institutes, but also of the religious denominations and of NGOs with experience in education and human rights, is an act of institutional normality and an obligation for all relevant actors.

In order to observe fundamental rights, a vision on the aims of education is an act that needs to include a dynamic and participative public consultation component, representing the position of more than one side.

The open letter may be signed by all those who want to support this transparent dialogue by sending an email at office.ardor@gmail.com .

For further detail, please contact Monica Mocanu (ARDOR), mobile: 0740 042 224.

Open letter sent by 26 NGOs to the Ministry of Education, regarding the debate over religion textbooks

Bucharest , September 18, 2012

Dear Mrs. Ecaterina Andronescu,

The signatory organizations ask you to receive, in good will, the notifications of the civil society regarding the teaching of religion in Romanian schools and the quality of the textbooks used to teach this subject matter. We consider that the institution you represent has a duty to maintains such a dialogue, especially since on several occasions there have been risks of violation of the European recommendations in the domain (for instance, Recommendation no. 1720/2005 of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on “Education and Religion”)

The organizations we represent asked the MECTS in March 2012 to organize public consultations regarding the way religion and information technology are taught in the preparatory class (grade 0). The request was registered under no. 16173 on March 9, 2012. As a reply, the MECTS invited the representatives of the organizations for a discussion on March 22, attended by the former minister and specialists of the institution, following which we transmitted the attached statement to the Ministry.

Our press release at the time noted (as proven by the minutes of the meeting, provided by Mrs. Lucica Popescu, a director of the Department for the Relation with the parliament) that the MECTS is open to in depth discussions on the quality of religion textbooks.

With the opening of the new school year, new concerns appeared regarding the content of religion textbooks, a matter on which you made some statements yourself, lately. The textbooks have not been revised, and the Ministry did not take the promised measures to avoid religious indoctrination and the violation of religious freedom in public schools.

Considering that the Ministry of Education, Research, Youth and Sport is a public institution that has a responsibility in receiving the notifications of the civil society; considering that a vision on how religion should be taught need to be build with a larger consultation than ministry experts and religious representatives; taking into account the opinion of teaching and educational policies specialists who warn against the risks of religious indoctrination and of nationalism based on intolerance and xenophobia associated with the confessional teaching of religion in schools; and appreciating the openness you professed, we ask you for a meeting to debate the appropriate procedures to ensure that all changes in the religion textbooks will be real and constructive and will take into account the opinions of all interested factors.

The signatory organizations have interests and expertise in education and human rights, some of us having also signed the white Charter of the NGOs for Education and Voluntary Work. The fact that we are supported by a large number of parents – and are ourselves parents – makes our informed and responsible interest on the matter stronger and motivates us for good co-operation.

Considerately

On behalf of the signatory organizations

Monica Mocanu – The Romanian Association for Debate, Public Speaking and Rhetoric (ARDOR)
Roxana Marin – The Center for Action and Responsibility in Education (CARE)
Mircea Toma, ActiveWatch – The Press Monitoring Agency
Alexandru Toma Patraşcu – The Romanian Secular-Humanist Association (ASUR)
Ioana Avădani, The Center for Independent Journalism
Emil Moise – The Solidarity for freedom of Consciousness Association
Valeriu Nicolae – Policy Center for Roma and Minorities
Oana Preda, The Resource Center for Public Participation – CeRe
Gelu Duminica – The Agency for Community Development “Impreuna” (“Together”)
Andra Matzal – Think Outside the Box
Dragos Gavrilescu – Population Services International in Romania (PSI)
Marian Mandache – Romani CRISS
Marian Ursan – Carusel Association
Maria Crista, Anca Gyemant si Rodica Tache – Harta Group
Ana-Maria Rampelt – Expedition Inside Culture Association
Mihail Bumbeş, The Spiritual Militia Civic Movement
Costel Popa, The Ecopolis Center for Sustainable Policies
Gabriel Petrescu – Soros Foundation
Ionuţ Sibian, The Foundation for the Development of Civil Society
Tudorina Mihai – FRONT Association
Monica Dvorski –Educatia 2000+ Center Foundation
Cristian Pîrvulescu, Pro Democratia Association
Diana Hatneanu, The Association for the Defense of Human Rights in Romania – the Helsinki Committee (APADOR CH)
Florin Buhuceanu – The Euroregional Center for Public Initiatives (ECPI)
Ana Maria Pălădu ş – Reper21.
Codru Vrabie – EPAS Organization