A New Study in the UK Calls for the Renaming of Religious Education and Other Reforms Such as Teaching About Atheism

The Catholic Education Service rejected the report.

The two-year-long study done by Commission on Religious Education concluded that Religious Education (RE) should be updated and re-branded in schools as “Religion and Worldviews.” The course should mirror the UK’s “wonderfully diverse” society. This change will also ensure RE’s survival as a viable subject. Topics like agnosticism, humanism, secularism, and atheism could be taught alongside orthodox religions. The report was welcomed by the Church of England.

The Commission on Religious Education was founded in 2016 to analyze the direction of religious education. The educational framework was last revised in the 1970s. The commission accepted over 3,000 submissions from belief communities, pupils, people of faith, parents, and teachers. As per the report, religious education varies in quality in different regions of Britain, pointing out that several schools do not offer religious education at all.

The report went further on to recommend that all students in government-funded schools should study RE until year 11. The text, however, does not go as far to recommend the abolition of parents rights to remove their children from all religious education. The report comes three weeks after figures showing a number of pupils opting for religious studies at the A-level in 2018 dipping by 22 percent when compared with 2017. An earlier report revealed that over 50 percent of the population professed to have no religion.

According to the report, RE must be mandatory for all schools funded by the government. It also gave the recommendation that the teachers must receive a higher quality of training to impart this specific discipline. The Very Reverend Dr. John Hall, the chair of the Commission, said the structural changes which occurred over the recent 20 years have unintentionally damaged RE’s integrity and added that the subject requires a “fresh start.”

The Catholic Education Service added its own two cents as well. It said that the noble aim of the Commission is to improve religious education quality, but the former rejected the proposed changes in the syllabus, expressing the fear that the subject would be diluted beyond effectiveness. The CES said the whole effort will change RE's basic character and will lead to the subject losing all integrity and academic value. The CES believes that the Religious Education quality will not be improved by teaching students less about the subject.

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