What is Religious Studies for in an increasingly secular age?
Despite the decline of faith in society it would appear that Religious Studies remains a critical if controversial subject for schools today. The topic of religion is rarely far from the news headlines in our multicultural society and it is still a compulsory subject in state schools. However, there is not a consensus about how religions should be represented, what the subject should be called and what should or shouldn’t be contained in the curriculum, including in other subjects such as English, history and geography.
Should teachers be teaching that Britain is a predominantly Christian country or a multicultural one in which all faiths are represented? Should all religions be presented as equal or should pupils be encouraged to pass judgement about different beliefs, behaviours and ways of living? What should teachers say to pupils about acts of terror carried out in the name of fundamentalist Islam? Is Religious Studies for teaching morality or should it be based on values of tolerance and inclusion? Have government initiatives to counter youth radicalisation (e.g. Prevent and REsilience) helped or inhibited teachers to teach about religion?
It is also clear that some teachers are uncomfortable with the title of Religious Studies, with some schools re-naming the subject ‘Philosophy and Ethics’ or ‘Beliefs and Values’. But if religion is being removed from the title, then what is the subject about? Last November a High Court judgement ruled that schools should teach atheism as part of Religious Studies (which was later over-turned by the Department for Education). Is the point of RS to represent all viewpoints, even non-religious ones?
Please join us for an open-ended discussion about the purpose and place of religious education in twenty-first century schooling.
Listen to the discussion:
Dr Lynn Revell
Canterbury Christ Church University College, and author Islam and Education: the manipulation and misrepresentation of a religion (2012)