Religious Education GCSE reforms have been causing a stir even before they were released for consultation. The big issue for the papers, members of the cabinet and some religious groups is the compulsory study of two religions. However, what about from the point of view of the RE teacher: will this requirement improve RE?
The requirement to teach two religions is not in place because it is good RE, although sensible practitioners can certainly make it good RE. The stated aims remind us where the requirement stems from, in describing an RE which will ‘challenge students to reflect on and develop their own values, beliefs and attitudes in the light of what they have learnt and contribute to their preparation for adult life in a pluralistic society and global community’. It is anxiety about some schools’ failure to prepare their young people for adult life in a pluralistic society, for example some of the Trojan Horse schools, which has inspired this move.
Why shouldn’t RE prepare young people for life in a pluralistic society as well as being an academically meaningful subject? In fact, why have we accepted an RE for so long that has been decontextualized and idealised? I am firmly in support of the study of any religion being rooted in the world we all inhabit, and this has been the conviction behind the socially and politically switched-on RE I have tried to develop in my own classroom. My one reservation is simply that I do not share the political convictions of the administration that have initiated this move. Tribal allegiances aside, what does this requirement mean for RE?
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