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Nouvelles recommandations pour enseigner l’éducation religieuse dans les écoles britanniques

The independent Commission on Religious Education in England and Wales has just published a new report about the role of Religious Education (RE) in Britain. In light of the declining religious affiliation in the country, the report makes a significant contribution to understanding the changing role of religion in British society and education.

Earlier this year, the former Labour education secretary Charles Clarke and Linda Woodhead, a professor in the Department of Politics, Philosophy and Religion at Lancaster University, produced a pamphlet outlining their vision for religion and belief in schools, in which they called for a series of changes in how RE is being taught. There has been a strong criticism of the Education Act 1944 which is increasingly seen as outdated and no longer relevant for the needs of contemporary society in which the Christian faith is not as important as it once was. In 2017, the British Social Attitudes Survey found that 52% of people had no religion compared to only 41% in 2002.

Based on the findings of a two-year study carried out by the Commission, the new report suggests that the syllabus should be updated to reflect the diversity of religious and non-religious perspectives. The core recommendation is a new National Entitlement for all pupils in all schools that specifies the ways in which the subject is to be taught to reflect the complexity, diversity and plurality of how ‘religion’ and ‘worldviews’ are being conceptualised and experienced in modern Britain.

The report does not claim that religion has completely lost its significance. However, it highlights the need to engage with a variety of religions and worldviews, including humanism, secularism, atheism and agnosticism. It also recommends that RE should be statutory for all publicly funded schools, and that teachers should receive better training for the discipline.

The Commission was in part motivated by the evidence that the quality of RE provision has been plummeting in recent years coupled with the decreased intake of the subject. There were also concerns expressed by some parents who were reluctant for their children to learn about Islam as part of the RE classes.

The report has received some mixed reactions. While the Church of England’s chief education officer has welcomed the recommendations, the most outspoken criticisms have come from representatives of schools with a religious character. For example, the Board of Deputies of British Jews criticised ‘the dilution of religious education through the inclusion of worldviews.’ The Catholic Education Service said ‘the quality of RE is not improved by teaching less religion’ (see The Conversation).

The debate on the changing nature of RE in schools continues to divide opinions. For some, it is an attempt to dilute the syllabus or even undermine some of the multicultural concessions secured by faith schools in their struggle to maintain their distinctive ethos. For others, a wider and a more inclusive scope of religious education is seen as a progressive measure designed to enhance the role of religion in the national curriculum.

24 septembre 2018