More students opt out of religion classes in school, 142% increase since 2014

The number of students opting out of religion classes has more than doubled from 1,411 students in 2014 to 3,422 now

The majority of these students are now following ethics classes, which are presently offered to students who have opted out of attending religion classes
The majority of these students are now following ethics classes, which are presently offered to students who have opted out of attending religion classes

The present scholastic year has seen a sharp increase in the number of children whose parents have opted to exempt them from religion classes.

In total, the number of these children has increased by 37% from 2,500 in 2017 to 3,422 in the present scholastic year.

The number of students opting out of religion classes has more than doubled from 1,411 students in 2014 to 3,422 now. This represents a 142% increase in the past four years.

The majority of these students are now following ethics classes, which are presently offered to students who have opted out of attending religion classes.

But the difference has been more pronounced in a number of schools. For example, in the Sliema primary school the number of students opting out of religion has shot up from just 21 in 2017, to 200 in the present year, an eightfold increase.

In the Gharghur primary school students opting out of religion shot up from 14 to 51. This represents a fourfold increase.

The statistics also confirm a sharp north-south divide with the numbers of students opting out of religion classes being concentrated in localities like St Paul’s Bay and Sliema, two localities which include a high number of foreign families.

57% of students opting out of religion classes currently attend the Maria Regina College which includes students from localities like Mellieha and St Paul’s Bay and the St Clare College which includes Sliema.

In St Paul’s Bay’s primary school, which is known to include a large number of students hailing from different nationalities, 361 students have opted out of religion classes.

In the south of Malta the largest number of such students is found in Marsaskala where 122 primary school students opted out of religion.
Another sharp increase in the south was registered in the two primary schools in Paola, where the number of such students at primary level has increased from 33 to 70 in the space of a year.

Surprisingly in Gzira, which has experienced an influx of foreigners, only 36 primary school students are not currently learning religion – three up from the previous year. This may well be an indication that this locality tends to attract single foreigners working in the gaming industry, rather than families.

None of the students attending the seven primary schools in Gozo (Qala and Xewkija) and the south of Malta (Qrendi, Kalkara, Senglea and Gudja) have opted out of religion classes. In Gozo, the sharpest increase was registered in Xaghra where the number of these students has shot up from nil in 2017 to 19 now, and in Zebbug, which saw the number increasing from 4 to 19.

Students opting out of religion classes can now opt for ethics classes. But not all State schools offer this subject. The discrepancy is particularly felt in St George Preca college (which includes schools in Valletta, Hamrun, Marsa, Floriana, and Paola). In this college only 37 of the 224 opting out of religion are studying ethics.

On the other hand, in St Clare College, which includes Sliema, St Julian’s and Pembroke, 735 out of the 782 opting out of religion classes are attending ethics classes. Presently 2,762 students in public schools are attending these classes.

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