Religious education in schools needs a major overhaul to reflect an increasingly diverse world and should include the study of atheism, agnosticism and secularism, a two-year investigation has concluded. The Observer reports.
The subject should be renamed Religion and Worldviews to equip young people with respect and empathy for different faiths and viewpoints, says the Commission on Religious Education in a report published on Sunday.
Content “must reflect the complex, diverse and plural nature of worldviews”, drawing from “a range of religious, philosophical, spiritual and other approaches to life, including different traditions within Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism and Sikhism, non-religious worldviews and concepts including humanism, secularism, atheism and agnosticism”.
The commission was established in 2016 to review the provision of religious education since its last overhaul 30 years ago. It received more than 3,000 submissions from pupils, teachers, parents, and faith and belief communities. Its report says the quality of religious education at present is variable, and a growing number of schools have stopped providing it.
The study of religion and worldviews provides “insight into the sciences, the arts, literature, history and contemporary local and global social and political issues”. It enables young people to develop greater respect and empathy for others, it adds.
The commission proposes a statutory entitlement to the study of Religion and Worldviews, but says schools should be permitted flexibility to tailor content to local circumstances, or in the case of faith schools to provide extra teaching relevant to their creed.
Humanists UK welcomed the recommendation that humanist beliefs and values be taught. In general, the commission’s conclusions were a “once-in-a-generation opportunity to save the academically serious teaching of religious and non-religious worldviews in our schools”, said Andrew Copson.
But the Catholic Education Service said the report was “not so much an attempt to improve RE as to fundamentally change its character … The quality of religious education is not improved by teaching less religion.”
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