Debates in Religious Education

Debates in Religious Education

Debates in Religious Education

Debates in Religious Education


What are the key debates in Religious Education teaching today? Debates in Religious Educationexplores the major issues all RE teachers encounter in their daily professional lives. It encourages critical reflection and aims to stimulate both novice and experienced teachers to think more deeply about their practice, and link research and evidence to what they have observed in schools.

This accessible book tackles established and contemporary issues enabling you to reach informed judgements and argue your point of view with deeper theoretical knowledge and understanding. Taking account of recent controversy, and challenging assumptions about the place of religion in education, expert contributors cover key topics such as:

  • Effective pedagogy in RE teaching
  • Exploring thinking skills and truth claims
  • The relationship of science and religion in the classroom
  • The place of school worship in contemporary society
  • The role of RE in spiritual and moral development
  • Diversity in the RE classroom.

With its combination of expert opinion and fresh insight, Debates in Religious Education is the ideal companion for any student or practising teacher engaged in initial training, continuing professional development and Masters level study.


L. Philip Barnes

In all probability religious education (RE) is the most divisive subject in the school curriculum. No other subject generates so much discussion or elicits responses from so wide an audience. Even those uninterested in curricular developments in education generally often have definite views on RE; typically expressed on the issues of whether it should or should not be taught in schools and whether the subject, if taught, should be compulsory. Popular interest in the fortunes of RE is matched by professional interest, and again much of this interest focuses on the legitimacy and compulsory nature of the subject. What distinguishes scholarly debate from popular philosophising is often, as one would expect, the more nuanced nature of the conclusions reached. For example, in 1994, David Hargreaves, at that time Professor of Education at the University of Cambridge and subsequently Chief Executive of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (then one of the chief official policy-making and implementation agencies in the United Kingdom), while advocating an expansion of religious schools within the state system (a conclusion enthusiastically taken up by New Labour under Tony Blair; see Walford 2008), argued that RE in non-religious schools should be abolished and replaced by citizenship education, on the grounds that RE can underwrite moral education only in schools that are religiously uniform (as in faith schools) and not in religiously diverse ‘secular schools’. Interestingly, Hargreaves went on characterise modern multi-faith RE in Britain as a ‘pick ’n’ mix tour of religions’ that ‘trivialises each faith’s claims to truth’ (Hargreaves 1994: 34), a viewpoint not uncommon among educators generally but not religious educators. More recently, Professor John White (2004) has similarly questioned the contribution of RE to moral education and by implication its contribution to the social aims of education; he also concluded that it should become an optional rather than a compulsory subject for pupils.

Debates in RE, however, are not confined to its current compulsory status in schools, as this volume amply illustrates. Like all other subjects, RE in schools embraces aims, objectives, methodologies, content, assessment techniques and learning outcomes, and relates to whole school issues such as gender and diversity; and like any other school subject it is regulated by legislation, conditioned by a range of formal and informal policy initiatives emanating from a host of official and . . .

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