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Sweden to tighten faith schools rules

Published: 1:01PM Tuesday October 16, 2007 Source: Reuters

The Swedish government said it would tighten rules governing independent faith schools to make sure religious views such as creationism were not taught in class.
   
Sweden's centre-right coalition government said in a statement it had agreed to clarify regulations to remove any leeway for religious views to influence the curriculum.
   
"This is naturally brought about by the fact that different viewpoints are being discussed, for instance about the creation of the world - one based on science and one on religious views," Education Minister Jan Bjorklund told a news conference.
   
"Teaching in school must have a scientific basis."
   
The Council of Europe this month voted to urge European schools to strongly oppose teaching creationism and intelligent design in science classes, saying attacks on the theory of evolution were rooted in religious extremism.
   
Creationism argues God made the world in six days as set out in the Bible while proponents of intelligent design say some life forms are too complex to have evolved without the aid of a higher intelligence.
   
While most schools in Sweden are run by municipalities, a minority are run by various religious groups.
   
Bjorklund said the government, of which the Christian Democrats are a junior member, would restructure supervision of Sweden's schools and double funding for inspections to about 300 million Swedish crowns (NZ$61.1 million).
   
It would also propose to parliament that it enable authorities to swiftly issue fines or, in especially serious cases, close schools that failed to adhere to the new rules.