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NewsID : 63152
Date of publication : 11/20/2014 7:01:23 PM
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Religious education

By Alliya Azam. She is a board member of REC. She holds a MA in Islamic Societies and Cultures from SOAS University and a PGCE from the Institute of Educa tion. She is currently Head of Science .

Religious education has been an integral feature of the country's

educational fabric ever since he foundations of universal education started to be laid in the 19th century. However that provision is now in peril. Education Secretary Michael Gove's rapidly implemented plans to shake up the educational system appear to be shaking out RE.

The government's decision to exclude RE from the English Baccalaureate' (EBacc) a new system for comparing the performance of different schools which recognizes achievement in Eng­lish, Mathematics, Science, a foreign language and 'a Humanities subject' -has led to a drop in the overall number of pupils studying RE at GCSE level as schools shift pupils towards Baccalau­reate subjects in order to climb official league tables.

Being left out of the EBacc is already having devastating consequences on RE schools. A survey by the National Associ­ation of Teachers of RE (NATRE) based on evidence from over half of all state maintained secondary schools in Eng land found that a quarter of all acad­emies and community schools are not providing statutory RE for 14-16 year olds. This non-compliance is predicted to increase during 2011-12. GCSE RE entries between 2010-11 and 2011-12 have dropped by more than a third in academies and community schools. In those schools where entry levels have dropped, over half of respondents attrib­ute the drop to the impact of RE being excluded from the EBacc.

Amongst the most vocal critics is the Church of England, which accused the government of having "no will" to ad­dress the problem. In a recent report, `The Church School of the Future", it criticized the exclusion of RE from the English Baccalaureate and also high­lighted a decline in the number of new RE teachers being trained. The govern­ment has cut the number of RE teacher training places by 45%, a move which the Church believes will prevent schools from delivering the subject properly to students.

The report also condemned the refusal  to include RE in a major review of the Catholic Church education bodies, has called for RE to be included in the EBacc.

For children and young people, RE is an important opportunity in the curriculum to be taught to recognise and respond to the challenges of growing up in a di­verse, multi-cultural society. Established in 1973, REC represents the collective interest of its fifty nine member bodies, including both professional associations and faith and belief organisations in deepening and strengthening the teach­ing and learning of RE. The organization has initiated a national Subject Review of Religious Education, to parallel the review of other subjects on the curricu­lum that is currently being undertaken and funded by the government.

RE is about challenges; it challenges young people to think about the mean­ing and purposes of life, what belief about God means; to ask about right and wrong to consider what it means to be human. RE can encourage a sense of identity, community and citizenship as well as respect for all and sensitiv­ity towards others. It can help children National Curriculum, which will set out the essential knowledge that all children should acquire at each stage of their educational development. The omission was having a "damaging effect on the status of the subject", it concluded "GCSE Religious Studies is a subject that requires high standards of knowl­edge and evaluation of evidence. It ex­plores religious and cultural topics and engages in debates over issues of diver­sity and conflict, ethics, philosophy and social change," said Ed Pawson, Chair of NATRE. It has grown massively in popularity over recent years because stu­dents recognize it as a subject of signifi­cant relevance to the world they encoun­ter. By excluding RS from the EBacc Michael Gove is effectively squeezing it out of the curriculum in many of our schools across the country. This truly is a cruel blow."

In the light of new evidence about the negative effects of RE having been ex­cluded from the 2010 EBacc, The Reli­gious Education Council of England and Wales (REC) which includes NATRE, along with the Church of England and learn how to combat prejudice and en­courage understanding and empathy for people who hold different beliefs and worldviews.

Recent research on attitudes to RE by YouGov on behalf of the Religious Edu­cation Council of England and Wales (REC), presented to the All Party Parlia­mentary Group on RE last June uncov­ered especially positive views of RE from those with most recent experiences of school; of those with an opinion, 60% of full time students agree RE is essential to a multi-faith society while 65% agree that RE is a beneficial subject to study. With religious and non-religious diver­sity increasing, these figures reflect the value adults attach to young people be­ing able to articulate their own beliefs, as well as engaging with, respecting and understanding others. Half of all those who gave an opinion said RE was an es­sential component of a multi-faith soci­ety, as it promotes mutual respect, toler­ance and understanding. This rose to over half among 18-24 year olds (52%)  and 25-34 year olds (56%). In contrast, only 9% said they thought it was 'harm­ful' for pupils to study RE and only 13% thought it should not be taught in schools at all.

The findings appear to show that gov­ernment policy is out of kilter with pub­lic opinion and that rather than mar­ginalize RE the government would do better to support and promote its con­tinued teaching in schools.

 


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