Pluralism and Constructivism in Turkish Religious Education: Evaluation of Recent Curriculum of Religious Culture and Ethical Knowledge Lesson

Article excerpt

Abstract

It is argued that a traditional approach to religious education is not sufficient to meet the necessities of contemporary world. For this reason, pluralistic approaches to religious education receive a particular attention in the recent years. In line with the other school subjects, the curriculum of secondary religious education was changed in Turkey. It is stated that the new curriculum was prepared taking the constructivist learning theory into consideration. The new curriculum may be accepted as a response to the demand for change in religious education. In this article, the following three issues related to pluralism are examined in terms of the new religious education curriculum: (i) Religious education and constructivist approach, (ii) the teaching of Alawism and (iii) the teaching of non-Islamic religions. An analysis of the curriculum indicates that some improvements have been made in line with pluralism.

Key Words

New secondary curriculum, teaching Alawism, teaching other religions, constructivism, religious education

Religious Education and Constructivist Learning Theory

It is argued that consistent with the development in the pedagogy in the modern world the curriculum subjects in Turkish schools have been changed in line with constructivist learning theory in recent years. In this process, the new secondary curriculum for religious education together with other school subject claim that the curriculum has been developed taking constructivism into consideration, multiple intelligences, learner-centered learning, learner participation, and individual differences. The overview of the literature reveals that there is a lack of research pertaining how to implement the constructivist learning theory to religious education in schools. However, we can claim that pluralistic religious educational approaches such as interpretative and phenomenological are more supportive for constructivist learning than traditional denominational or confessional approaches to religious education. It is assumed that the following two points may lead to some problems when we are implementing constructivist learning in religious education. Firstly, the epistemological understanding of construction of knowledge in religion is mainly different from the assumption of subjective construction of constructivist learning theory. Secondly, the followers of a religion believe the existence of objective religious principles, faith, and so on beyond the interpretation of individual believer of the religion. This can cause in a contradiction with the constructivist principle of individual construction of knowledge. In the present article, it is suggested that the constructivist learning theory be used in the teaching of living dimension of religion (experience and practice by individual and society) rather than the doctrinal dimension in religious education.

The examination of the new religious educational curriculum reveals that the curriculum exhibits some shortcomings pertaining to constructivist approach with providing emphasis on content-based tendency, the lack of importance for religious experience of students, and etc. Moreover, only touching upon religious diversity or trying to promote implicitly one type of Islamic understanding in Islam is a weak dimension of the curriculum from the constructivist point of view. With the present form, it can be argued that this curriculum is more similar to the behaviorist theory of learning rather than the constructivist theory of learning.

It should also be noted that the implementation of constructivist approach to religious education, particularly in a society that has a high level of religiosity and less pluralistic from religious perspective is not without problems. For this reason, a particular attention should be given to the issue of relativism when we are presenting Islam.

Grimmet (2000) provides the following pedagogical suggestions during the implementation of constructivist approach in religious education:

The item of religious content is always brought into a dynamic relationship with critical thought which pupils undertake as situated or contextualized individuals. …