New Representations of Religion and Belief in Schools
- How do stakeholders understand the purpose of RE?3
- What are stakeholders’ aspirations regarding the content of RE?
- What do stakeholders think the teaching and learning about religion and belief should look like, both inside RE and outside, in the wider school environment?
3. Aspirations on Content
3.1. More Breadth
“We live in a country with loads of different religions and I think we should learn about each different one, so if you do come across them, you know what they’re on about, and you know who they are.”(Pupil)
“They don’t learn about minority religions and I think they should.”(Teacher)
“I think in order to get enough depth in the subject you need to study a few main ones … then bringing in some non-popular denominations, not just Christian ones … for example the Amish people … or Branch Davidians.”(Teacher)
“I’d say as wide a range as possible within the constraints of the curriculum.”(Teacher)
3.2. Including the Informal
“Obviously you can’t look at them all, but I think it’s important to look at how people have beliefs but they may not be within a formal religion.”(Parent)
“It’s like a mind map of religion because within that you’ve got religions that aren’t necessarily religious but are spiritual.”(Teacher)
3.3. Non-Religious Worldviews
“I think they (non-religious worldviews) are just as important to learn as like Christianity because it’s still a form of belief.”(Pupil)
“They need to know about all the major ones plus Humanist, secular religions, ones that don’t actually believe that there is a god but still want to have an ethical base.”(Parent)
“That’s (non-religious worldviews) important too, because not everyone you meet is religious.”(Pupil)
3.4. Exploring Categories—The ‘Religious’ and the ‘Secular’
“Yes definitely [include non-religious worldviews]. That’s the flipside.”(Parent)
“I’d want them [pupils] to think more broadly about what we class as religion too. There are people that dance round Stonehenge naked because the sun’s up. Does that fall under the remit? Definitely it does of spirituality.”(Teacher)
3.5. Lived Religion
“You’re not going to meet a Christian and start talking about how Jesus was born, or Adam and Eve, which is something we cover a lot in RE ... you should learn more about what people do in everyday lives.”(Pupil)
“I think that while we should be taught about ceremonies and things like that in religion, I don’t think it should be the main topic because I find I know more about ceremonies than I do about everyday life. I’d rather know how they lead [their life] rather than just what happens once a year ... because that’s not everything about the religion. What they do in their day to day lives, that’s the religion.”(Pupil)
“It’s such a broad thing, so to say, like, Christians believe that like, having women Bishops is wrong … is a really difficult thing to say … there could be some people who are Christian who completely don’t think that”.(Pupil)
“They should teach you different points of view within a religion”.(Pupil)
“It’s not something you can just learn as a block. It’s individual what you believe.”(Pupil)
“You need to cover the fact that not everyone that comes from that religion actually acts and thinks in that (extremist) way … You need to know how different people interpret their religion.”(Pupil)
“It’s important for pupils to know that there are lots of people that would tick a religious box but not practise it, and that that doesn’t make their religion any less valid than those following it more closely … There are spectrums everywhere.”(Teacher)
“You have people who convert because it’s fluid. There are people who stick, people who quit and people who wander in between …”(Teacher)
3.6. Change and Fluidity
“Religion has adapted … with (the) times … when Sunday trading laws came in half my grandma’s family were outraged because they’d rather have a cup of tea without milk than go to the shop and get it. Times have changed, Things have changed. People believe in Karma nowadays.”(Teacher)
“I think it lives and breathes. It’s the same with language, it’s eternally changing. We should teach it as that.”(Teacher)
“Beliefs and practices are important, but it needs to be coupled with the sociological; the changing nature of religion. Religion is clearly changing very rapidly. From a sociological point of view, is there even such a thing as Christianity anymore?”(Teacher)
3.7. Tradition Versus Identity
“Why is it embarrassing to say you’re a Christian, and what does that say in a “Christian country”, that it’s not embarrassing to say you’re a Muslim?”(Teacher)
“The whole Islamophobia thing needs to be explored.”(Teacher)
3.8. Engaging with Controversy
“I don’t think you can just learn the good stuff in RE, you’ve got to look at the downsides, I’ve never learned about that.”(Pupil)
“I think it’s interesting when we look at big disasters and the terrorists.”(Pupil)
“They need to know about Jihadi John and that kind of thing.”(Parent)
“Although it won’t come up in their GCSEs, it’s (Charlie Hebdo attack) really relevant. That will have far more impact on their lives than what Christians think of divorce.”(Teacher)
3.9. ‘Contemporary Religion in Society’
“Secularism in post-Enlightenment Europe, as a political doctrine, has entailed the privatisation of religion through its exclusion from the public domain. This socio-historical transformation is foregrounded by the critics of the phenomenology of religion as explaining in part its conception of religion as having more to do with the transcendent, other worldly realm than with the affairs of this world. It has led to the study of religious and secular belief systems in a reified form, detached from their political and social matrix in which there exist intricate webs of connections between orientational beliefs and social institutions”.
“I think it’s important to link religions to what’s actually going on in society.”(Pupil)
“We need to learn about how it [religion] mixes into politics.”(Pupil)
“We need to look at religions and their core beliefs and practices, but then examine believer’s lives, their role in society, and religion’s role in shaping society.”(Teacher)
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State schools controlled by the local council.
Academies are publicly funded, independent schools, run by Academy Trusts. They receive their funding directly from the government, rather than the local council and do not have to follow the National Curriculum.
The RE for Real research asked participants about “learning about religion and belief” rather than specifically about Religious Education (RE). However, due to the structure of the English curriculum in which RE is a discrete subject area, responses (unless otherwise specified) are taken as relating to RE.
The General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) is an academic qualification, taken in various subjects at age 14–16 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The 2013 NATRE survey reports reduced curriculum time devoted to RE since the introduction of the English Baccalaureate (EBacc)—the performance measure for schools through which Government determines the subjects most important to study as GCSE, from which RE was excluded (NATRE 2013).
According to the British Social Attitudes Survey, 2017, more than half (53%) of the British public now describe themselves as having “no religion”, up from 48% in 2015. (http://www.natcen.ac.uk/news-media/press-releases/2017/september/british-social-attitudes-record-number-of-brits-with-no-religion/).
© 2018 by the author. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).
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Shaw, M. New Representations of Religion and Belief in Schools. Religions 2018, 9, 364. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel9110364
Shaw M. New Representations of Religion and Belief in Schools. Religions. 2018; 9(11):364. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel9110364Chicago/Turabian Style
Shaw, Martha. 2018. "New Representations of Religion and Belief in Schools" Religions 9, no. 11: 364. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel9110364