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To think in this day and age more importance should be placed on religious education in schools?

(67 Posts)
cannotthinkofanorginialname Mon 05-Jun-17 13:25:48

I teach in a secondary school in an ex-mining village location where the overwhelming majority of students are from white, working class, Christian (mostly on-practising from what I can tell) backgrounds. Whilst I really love working with the kids I teach, sometimes their views on the world and those we share it with really depress me.

Over the years I've found students becoming generally less tolerant on issues like religion and immigration and I wonder whether the way in which my school pays lip-service to 'Religious Education' is one of the reasons why. We have one qualified RE teacher (and over 1K students on roll). In lower school, students don't have any fixed RE or citizenship lessons. To show that the students are getting some sort of guidance, a day once per year is given over to RE and they get a few citizenship lessons at the end of the year (which are pretty rubbish as they are thrown together last minute by someone who has no interest in the topic!) At GCSE level, RE is optional and not taken up by many. Generally RE is seen as a waste of time by the vast majority of students I teach.

AIBU to think that actually RE is a really important subject? The way I see it, a lot of the trouble in the world is caused by religion or namely a lack of understanding between people of different religions and if we were all a bit better educated about the different religions of the world, we might be able to encourage more tolerance and cooperation between people of different faiths?

Some of the things I hear from the students I think must have come from their parents or the media and if they have no other access to fact-based information about different religions and cultures, how are they ever going to be able to make reasonable, informed views and opinions about the world around them? I try my best to foster an environment of understanding and tolerance in my classroom but I think this needs to be looked at on a larger scale. I'd be interested to hear other people's views.

BackforGood Mon 05-Jun-17 13:36:59

I agree it is a really important subject, but I am very surprised at how it is treated in your school.
All secondary pupils I know of (so that's a few schools locally) get RE in KS3. Yes, arranged differently on different timetables, but it's there as a subject nevertheless.
Indeed, it's a really popular subject amongst the teens I know - lot more 'Philosophy and Ethics' than the subject I remember from back in the dark ages.

strawberrygate Mon 05-Jun-17 13:40:00

personally, I think that teaching children about sky fairies etc. should be relegated to story time at nursery, and school should be to educate kids about real life stuff. You know, like stuff that exists; you never know in a few hundred years we may then pull ourselves out of the middle ages.

RufusTheRenegadeReindeer Mon 05-Jun-17 13:40:07

Our school allows the children to drop re at options level

I think there should be a lesson that encompasses RE, law and government and personal health

In our school its PSHE...or something like that but its one lesson a week so doesn't really allow a lot of time

JohnnyMcGrathSaysFuckOff Mon 05-Jun-17 13:40:20

The problem is that by your own admission, most of your pupils are not religious. So RE is basically telling them a lot about how other people perceive the world but really not offering them a way to explore their own values.

Why RE? Why not cultural studies? Or citizenship?

Ime the vast majority of younger people are atheist or agnostic outside of specific faith communities, and are rightly suspicious of religiois agendas. More RE will probably feel irrelevant to them.

MaidOfStars Mon 05-Jun-17 13:41:46

I'm as atheist as they come but comparative religious education (as opposed to "brainwashing" religious instruction) is an essential subject in my view, preferably as part of a more general philosophy theme.

MaidOfStars Mon 05-Jun-17 13:42:51

Why RE? Why not cultural studies? Or citizenship?
Oh, I think "cultural studies" is a good idea. My above post wasn't necessarily arguing for the subject to be called religious education.

NotCitrus Mon 05-Jun-17 13:43:27

Isn't PSME or whatever it's called required to be on the curriculum? Personal, social, moral, health and ethics education along with current events and how government works etc?

MaidOfStars Mon 05-Jun-17 13:45:40

personally, I think that teaching children about sky fairies etc. should be relegated to story time at nursery, and school should be to educate kids about real life stuff
I think the premise of religious education is to teach children that some people, including some in this school etc, believe in this/that/the other they're all the same, not to teach children that those beliefs are in some way true?

tkband3 Mon 05-Jun-17 13:47:30

At my DDs' school, RS is compulsory to Year 10, when they sit a partial GSCE in the subject. They cover so much more than religious education in the syllabus - quite a lot of the subject matter is more to do with ethics, morals and philosophy than actual religion. But they have also been taught about the many religions around the world, and as a result, have a fantastic understanding of the differences, and similarities, between the various faiths.

The subject is taught really well and my DDs all find it very interesting. DD1 would have chosen it as a GCSE option, had it not been compulsory.

Just for context, we are an aetheist household, with CofE, Catholic and Jewish backgrounds, living in a North London suburb, with a large Muslim population.

cannotthinkofanorginialname Mon 05-Jun-17 13:49:56

We do have a weekly PHSE lesson but there's no reference to religion in these sessions from what I can see. I like the idea of cultural studies. I'd class myself as agnostic myself, leaning more towards atheist the older I get so I haven't got an agenda, however I can see the value in learning about the beliefs of other religions. Surely with knowledge comes understanding and tolerance?

StatelessPrincess Mon 05-Jun-17 13:52:33

I agree OP, I think that having knowledge and understanding of religion means you have knowledge and understanding of other people and world events, to me that is a good thing.

strawberrygate Mon 05-Jun-17 13:53:20

By teaching about religion, you're saying it's a valid thing for rational people to believe in. A couple of comments in citizenship that there are all sorts of religions that different people believe in would suffice. You don't need to know anything about the other religions even if you're brought up to believe in one yourself.

chantico Mon 05-Jun-17 13:55:00

Huge misunderstandings already shown about the nature of RE syllabus.

Derogatory language about religions has no place in a diverse society, and one hopes that improvement in RE (a subject that all state schools must offer) will lessen bigotry. That of course does depend on there being good teachers, but I think the standard of teachers in Britain is high.

Taught well, and in a way that converges with GCSE syllabus, It's a great subject for learning to debate, learning about other belief systems, comparing them and finding points of commonality, and examining the big ethical issues from different standpoints.

LorLorr2 Mon 05-Jun-17 13:58:55

I don't mean this in a rude way whatsoever but I think your school is in the minority, most do give a proper education in Religion. One teacher qualified to teach 1000 students a subject isn't good enough, as you say.

araiwa Mon 05-Jun-17 13:59:26

I think that anything that gives people a wider understanding of the world around them is a valuable use of time in school.

I would never want religion xy or z is true to be taught in school though

pigsDOfly Mon 05-Jun-17 14:08:18

Not sure teaching children the details of other religions is going to automatically make them understand and become more tolerant of other cultures and other peoples.

Surely they need to be taught about equality and compassion rather than religion, which as far as I see has cause more division and hatred in the world than anything else.

JohnnyMcGrathSaysFuckOff Mon 05-Jun-17 14:20:15

Maid yes, I think for teens who do not identify as religious it feels like "something other people do" and therefore irrelevant. It also perpetuates the wrong idea that somehow having strong ethical or moral beliefs is the preserve of the religious. Why not call it Philosophy, Ethics and Citizenship or Comparative Cultural Studies and include study of religious and atheistic beliefs?

As for RE teachers doing a good job - I teach university English and very few of my students have any understanding of religious history, even very basic things like the history of anti-Semitism or the differences between Protestant and Catholic. Whatever they are being taught, it isn't sticking.

chantico couldn't disagree more. We need more critical thinking and more honest conversation, not less. People need to be able to criticise political positions that they think are wrong.

Birdsgottaf1y Mon 05-Jun-17 14:22:06

I think Sociology is more relevant. Especially if it includes Ethics, how the media create Moral Panics and how to read the News critically.

I took RE as a CSE (I'm old),even though I don't believe in a God.

I've always though that in this age of addiction, even if it's Social Media, Spirituality and Meditation etc should be part of a curriculum, as should critical thinking.

RufusTheRenegadeReindeer Mon 05-Jun-17 14:23:11

To be fair johnny i think most children dont pay attention in the first three years and then forget everything they did learn in the following 4 years smile

WalkingOnLeg0 Mon 05-Jun-17 14:35:34

I would say the OPs experience is very common in schools now. But the conclusion is wrong. We should scrap RE in schools because it is completely counter productive at best and validates extremist ideas at worst.

Unless your prepared to be brutality honest about the real nasty side of religions and not just the PC fluffy version that religious leaders would like it to be, then your feeding children a lie. And in that case you are telling them its ok to pick a religion they are all ok and all valid life choices.

You might get parents and religious leaders telling their children you have to learn that stuff at school but its all lies. So what does that teach children?

You might get a deeper more fundamentalist study of a religion at home, safe in the knowledge that school has effectively endorsed them as nice fluffy main stream systems of belief.

What we need to do is stop teaching children what makes us different and start teaching shared values that we should ALL believe in. Basic British values, you know, like its wrong to kill people no matter what a religion says. That we have a system of law that supersedes all other beliefs, no matter what a religion says. That men and women are equal, should be treated equally and should never accept segregation, no matter what a religion says. That being gay is normal, no matter what any religion says. Basic British values. NOT religious values.

NeoNeoClassical Mon 05-Jun-17 14:58:14

But we shouldn't be tolerant of religion. We should feel pity at best and disgust as a fairly normal reaction to it. Religion is abhorrent and the sad and unfashionable fact is that the fundamentalists have a better understanding of religion than the moderate ones.

As soon as religion is educated off the planet, the better it will be for all of us.

JohnnyMcGrathSaysFuckOff Mon 05-Jun-17 15:18:12

Rufus probably grin

To be clear about my earlier comment - I think we should respect all people's right to believe as they choose and also avoid ad hominem attacks, ridicule etc.

But relgions are political ideologies. We have to be able to call out misogyny, homophobia, incitement to hatred and violence, and codification of tribal difference which many of them quietly support. I refuse to shut up about belief systems in the UK here and now that are responsible for denying women abortion rights or delaying the introduction of marriage equality for example.

BackforGood Mon 05-Jun-17 18:14:18

Glad there have been some considered, sensible replies after Strawberrygate's inflammatory post near the top of the thread. I think the fact that you make a post like that shows exactly why more education about World religions is needed. MaidofStars's posts are really helpful contribution to the debate. This isn't bout if you as an individual have a faith or not, it is about understanding the world we live in, and, like it or not, religion plays a big part in the lives of many.
The RE lesson my dc go to encourage knowledge, debate, respect for others, and the understanding that we can all challenge things we disagree with through debate rather than insult or making derogatory comments about any one.

twelly Mon 05-Jun-17 18:24:00

It depends what RE lessons what to achieve, education about different faiths is factual, this is the sMe S any other subject pupils study, If we are talking about education students to be respectful of others regardless of creed then that does not need an RE lesson, what's more respect applies not just to those of different religions but to any difference that people have.

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