Parents should demand religion classes at public schools because children have a right to them, said Chilean Bishop Hector Vargas of Arica, adding that the Ministry of Education should subsidize the textbooks needed for such courses and include religion grades on report cards.
Bishop Vargas, who is also president of the Committee on Education of the Bishops’ Conference of Chile, said that in Arica there is a growing interest on the part of students in attending religion classes, because all of the municipal elementary schools are including it in their curricula. "In addition, all of the schools that have been built recently are offering religious instruction, and many of them have asked to be recognized as Catholic schools," he pointed out.
The only exceptions are students in the third and fourth year of high school, the bishop continued, because "in those cases there are not enough religion teachers who are qualified to teach at that level."
Bishop Vargas noted that the Conference has developed a series of programs aimed at addressing the questions high school students have about the faith. "The idea is that in religion class young people can discuss their problems and issues," he said.