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Religious education in primary and secondary education

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Title: Religious education in primary and secondary education  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: Freedom of education, Secondary education, Primary education, Cornway College, Study of religion
Collection: Primary Education, Religion and Education, Religion and Politics, Religion-Related Legal Issues, Secondary Education, Study of Religion
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Religious education in primary and secondary education

Religious education is the term given to doctrine and faith, or for education in various aspects of religion, but without explicitly religious or moral aims, e.g. in a school or college. The term is often known as religious studies.


  • England 1
  • France 2
  • Ireland 3
  • Israel 4
  • Japan 5
  • Lebanon 6
  • Malaysia 7
  • Norway 8
  • Scotland 9
  • South Africa 10
  • References 11
  • External links 12


Religious Education (RE) is a compulsory subject in the state education system in England. Schools are required to teach a programme of religious studies according to local and national guidelines.

Religious Education in England is mandated by the Education Act 1944 as amended by the Education Reform Act 1988 and the School Standards and Framework Act 1998. It is compulsory in all state-funded schools. The subject consists of the study of different religions, religious leaders, and other religious and moral themes. However, the curriculum is required to reflect the predominant place of Christianity in religious life and hence Christianity forms the majority of the content of the subject. All parents have the right to withdraw a child from religious education, which schools must approve.[1]

Additionally, all schools are required by law to provide a daily act of collective worship, of which at least 51% must be Christian in basis over the course of the academic year.[2] However, this activity even if multifaith in nature is often meaningless to non Christians, particularly Muslims, who have specific protocols for prayer. Teachers' organizations have criticized school prayer and called for a government review of the practice.[3] Partly due to the lack of support from the teachers and partly due to the government's unwillingness to attract controversy, only a quarter of secondary schools actually comply, according to education inspectorate Ofsted.[4]

England has a Local Agreed Syllabus which mandate subject teaching for each Key Stage and possibly for each school year. The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority has also produced the non-statutory National Framework for Religious Education, which provides guidelines for the provision of RE at all key stages, and models the eight-levels as applied in National Curriculum subjects.[5]

The National Union of Teachers suggested in 2008 that parents should have a right to have specific schooling in their own faith and that imams, rabbis and priests should be invited to offer religious instruction to pupils in all state schools.[6]


In France, RE is replaced by a non-religious moral teaching (called civic, legal and social education : éducation civique, juridique et sociale, ECJS). Children can additionally receive, on a voluntary basis, a religious education, either at school in private religious school, or outside of school, in their religious community, if they are in a public (State) school, though in some rare regions, the old Concordat being still an obligation because of the German occupation and the strong stand of population in favour of this (in the Alsace-Moselle mainly), religious education is made compulsory, and a dispense is necessary if the child refuses to be following religious education, which is set catholic.


In Ireland religion is taught in a subject called Religious Education which is compulsory in many schools for the Junior Certificate, but available as an option for the Leaving Certificate. The course educates students about communities of faith, the foundations of the major world religions, the sacred texts, religious practices and festivals for Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists and Christians. Students also learn about religious change in Ireland, meaning in life, religious and non-religious responses to the search for meaning, atheism, agnosticism and other forms of belief. Students are also educated about morality in a number of different faiths and their moral codes.


Israeli school system includes State Schools; Religious State Schools; Recognized Schools and Exempt Schools, whose students are regarded as fulfilling the obligatory education.[7]


The prevailing view is that the religious education would contravene the constitutional separation of state and religion. In place of RE, there is a short but nonetheless compulsory subject called "Ethics" (道徳どうとく doutoku, lit. "morality") in primary school, where the purpose is to teach moral values rather than to teach ethics as an academic subject. However despite the stated secular stance, references to the majority religions of Shinto and Buddhism are sometimes made in class texts.


Being a secular country, with no state religion, Lebanon is expected to have a neutral position regarding religious education in its schools, which is not the case in the country, as well as many European and American countries. Lebanon doesn't have a law concerning RE in its educational establishments. Schools have the right to either give RE classes, or do the opposite. Religious classes are not obligatory, nor banned, and they are not replaced by "ethics" classes. Private Schools (Christian and Muslim) give mandatory religious classes, reflecting their religious identification. Students from other religions don't take any classes during the religious ones, but they always can sign up for the RE class. Catholic schools give only Catholic classes, mandatory for Christian students, but can be signed up for by Muslim students, if not, Muslims do not take any classes in parallel to Christian ones. Public schools kind of have a more liberal religious program. A Lebanese public school may give, or not give RE classes, which regard the predominant religion of the population in the area the school is located in. Students have to take these classes, whether they are Christian or Muslim. A public school located in a mixed area would prefer not to give RE classes, unless voted oppositely by locals, RE classes may be both Christian and Muslim at the same time in this case, and students divide when this happens.


The Malaysian education system makes Moral Studies compulsory for non-Muslim students at secondary and primary schools. Muslim students instead partake in Islamic Studies lessons. Both subjects figure among the seven compulsory subjects undertaken by students for the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia. There has been considerable debate about the usefulness of the "Moral" subject, primarily due to the strict exam-oriented marking-schemes.[8]


As of 2007 Article 2 of the Constitution of Norway mandates Evangelical-Lutheran parents to provide a religious upbringing for their children.[9]


In Scottish state schools, Religious Education is called Religious and Moral Education from ages 5 to 14, and Religious, Moral and Philosophical Studies from 14 to 18.

The majority of state schools in are non-denominational, but as a result of the Education Act 1918, separate denominational state schools were also established. The vast majority of denominational state schools are Roman Catholic but there are also a number of Scottish Episcopal schools. The school buildings are built and maintained by the Roman Catholic Church were handed over to the state under the Education Act. Since then,the Catholic schools are fully funded by the Scottish Government and administered by the Education and Lifelong Learning Directorate. As part of the deal, there are specific legal provisions to ensure the promotion of a Catholic ethos in such schools: applicants for positions in the areas of Religious Education, Guidance or Senior Management must be approved by the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland, which also appoints a chaplain to each of its schools. There is also one Jewish state primary school.

South Africa

The South African National Policy on Religion and Education adopted in September 2003 provides for Religion Education, i.e. education about diverse religions, which does not promote any particular religion in the public school curriculum. The policy does not apply to private schools.[10][11]


  1. ^ Department for Children, Schools and Families. "Religious Education — collective worship and the right to withdraw". Teachernet. Department for Children, Schools and Families. Retrieved 2008-02-07. 
  2. ^ Department for Children, Schools and Families (2005). "Collective worship". Teachernet. Department for Children, Schools and Families. Retrieved 2008-02-07. 
  3. ^ "BHA Briefing 2006/12: Education and Inspections Bill" (PDF). BHA Briefing. British Humanist Association. 2006. Archived from the original on 2007-10-15. Retrieved 2008-02-07. 
  4. ^ Lucy Wilkins (2005-07-24). "School worship: from sports to death". BBC News website. BBC. Retrieved 2008-02-07. 
  5. ^ Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (2004). "Religious Education: non-statutory framework". National Curriculum Website. Qualifications and Curriculum Authority. Retrieved 2008-02-07. 
  6. ^ Hannah Goff (2008-03-24). "Call to offer faith class choice". BBC News website. British Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 2008-03-27. 
  7. ^ A. Maoz, "Religious Education in Israel", 83 U. Det. Mercy L. Rev (2006) p. 679-728.
  8. ^
  9. ^ "The Constitution - Complete text". The Constitution. Stortinget. 2008-09-11. Retrieved 2011-06-02. The Evangelical-Lutheran religion shall remain the official religion of the State. The inhabitants professing it are bound to bring up their children in the same. 
  10. ^ "National Policy on Religion and Education". Retrieved 20 March 2013. 
  11. ^ Jeenah, Na'eem. Ramadiro, Brian; Vally, Salim, eds. "Education Rights for Learners, Parents and Educators Book 5: Religion and Schools". Education Rights Project. Retrieved 20 March 2013. 

External links

  • Religious and moral education, Curriculum for excellence, Scotland
  • [1] Education about Religions and Beliefs, A Global Resource
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