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Enseignement de la religion

The new Freedom of Religion Act emphasises the positive right to receive religious instruction. The earlier law was based upon the notion of negative right to be exempted from religious instruction. In the new Basic Education and Upper Secondary School Acts, religious instruction is non-confessional but mandatory. A pupil is entitled to instruction in his/her own faith and he/she is obliged to participate in it. A pupil who does not belong to the religion of the majority of pupils can participate in the instruction of this religion only if he/she enrols separately for it. It is up to the local councils to provide separate religious education if three or more pupils (or their parents) request it. Religious instruction in public schools is non-confessional so teachers do not have to belong to a certain religious community to be able to teach religion. The National Board of Education has published “National Core Curriculum for Basic Education” as guideline for teaching of religion.

Ethics (or elämänkatsomustieto in Finnish, literal translation “worldview knowldege”) is taught to pupils who are not members of any religious community. The starting point of Ethics is multidisciplinary, including philosophy, social sciences and cultural studies. Its goal is to give the pupils the material to grow into independent, tolerant, responsible and judicious members of society and support their growth into full, democratic citizenship. The study of Ethics contains instruction in human relations and moral growth, self-knowledge and cultural identity, human rights and issues concerning the environment and nature. From the sixth to the ninth grade the aim of Ethics is to “deepen the pupil´s understanding of their own philosophies of life and conceptions of the world” and to provide fundamental information about a variety of world views and religions. The curriculum of Ethics deals with non-religiousness, but does not explicitly prohibit teaching about world religions (National Core Curriculum for Basic Education, 2004).

The majority (nearly 86% in 2016) of Finnish children aged 15 years participate in the confirmation school of Lutheran Church making it the principal means of educating the practice of religion (which isn´t allowed in public schools).

The Freedom of Religion Act does not impinge on school traditions. According to the Parliament of Finland, the singing of traditional hymns at end-of-term celebrations in spring and before Christmas does not constitute the practice of a religion in the meaning of the Act. The meaning of these celebrations is seen to be to pass on and preserve culture ; accordingly, all pupils, regardless of their religious affiliation, can participate.

For further information see :
 Matti Kotiranta"Religious education in Finland" in Gerhard Robbers (Hrsg.), Religion in Public Education – La religion dans l’éducation publique, European Consortium for Church and State Research, Trier, 2011, 139-154.
 Tuula Sakaranaho, "Religious Education in Finland", Temenos 49/2, 2013.

D 25 mai 2017    ATommi Heino

CNRS Unistra Dres Gsrl

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