Participatory Learning: Religious Education in a Globalizing Society

Participatory Learning: Religious Education in a Globalizing Society

Participatory Learning: Religious Education in a Globalizing Society

Participatory Learning: Religious Education in a Globalizing Society


In many respects children and youths receiving religious instruction in our culture resemble extraterrestrial beings doing an orientation course. Religion and religiosity are unknown quantities which they have hardly encountered at home. Religion seems something else, something greater. This book is a study of the foundations of religious education, centered around six concepts: religion in a globalizing society, religious tradition, religion, the religious self, learning through participation and interreligious learning.


We start this introduction with a story. It is a parody of a form of learning that is at odds with the principles of participatory learning. Then we explain the structure and contents of the book. We decided on an extensive introduction that sums up the main ideas in the book. At the end of the introduction we indicate what is meant by a study of the foundations of religious education.

A parody

An extraterrestrial being – let's call her Ypsilon – lands on earth.
Ypsilon was sent to earth on a special mission: to discover what it
means to live as a citizen on earth. Ypsilon duly reports to the immigra
tion service. The official informs her that every new citizen has to com
plete an orientation course. Ypsilon is happy to comply, since she wants
to know what life on earth is about.

The immigration service has established special centres where new
comers are instructed in the culture of the host country. Ypsilon attends
classes six hours each day. There she sits next to other children in the
same room. Ypsilon soon realises that this type of grouping was chosen
out of considerations of efficiency. Newcomers do not learn together; it
is rather a form of 'learning together apart'. Most of the courses are
written, although more and more computers are brought into the class
room. Ypsilon is given excellent ratings for her work. She also finds the
system highly efficient: after reading a text, you answer a few questions
and then you know the work. Ypsilon finds the traffic lessons particu
larly fascinating. For this course she is given a book with a great many
colour plates and drawings. They all represent things that are totally
foreign to Ypsilon: cars, bicycles, right-turn traffic, a zebra crossing, a
stop sign. In due course Ypsilon will recognize these pictures. She
obtains high marks for the course.

Ypsilon is an exceptionally bright pupil. After an intensive six
months course she leaves the doors of the centre to embark on real life.
She is confident, for she has had good ratings all along. But life outside
the centre is quite unlike what she learnt in her courses. People speak to
each other very differently from what she heard on the CD-Rom for
the language course. The words might be the same, but everything else
is altogether different. Everyone talks at the same time; they don't com
plete their sentences; sentences are littered with foreign words; and
sometimes the speakers mean something quite different from what they
are saying. And, equally disconcerting, they look at Ypsilon as though
she comes from another planet. Then they start speaking in a very dif-

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