RE ‘lacks Intellectual development’

The teaching of Christianity in schools has been labelled ‘incoherent’ and ‘too stereotypical’ by an academic leading a project to improve RE lessons. Dr Nigel Fancourt of Oxford University said that lessons can lack ‘intellectual development’. Dr Fancourt’s comments came after a poll which showed support for teaching Christianity in schools.

Close to two thirds of adults agreed that pupils should know about Christianity to understand English history and 57 per cent said that learning about Christianity was essential for children to understand the English culture and way of life. Dr Fancourt told the BBC that teaching focused too much on faith and was not ‘challenging and vibrant.’ For example, he said that a lesson on the feeding of the 5,000 could become ‘an exhortation to share your picnic rather than a discussion of whether miracles really happen.’ The British Humanist Association’s Andrew Copson agreed that Christianity is poorly taught, but said that this was also true of non-religious beliefs. He said: ‘Christianity should be taught about and taught about well but not, as at present, to the exclusion of other approaches to life and not in any pretence that it is relevant to the developing of beliefs, values and life stances of most young people, over two-thirds of whom have non-religious world-views.’

A report earlier in March said that religious education can reduce religious misunderstanding and conflict. The inquiry by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Religious Education heard that when young people have a good education on religion and belief, the potential for tension in multifaith communities is reduced. Chair of the group, Stephen Lloyd MP, said: ‘Religion and belief are often portrayed inaccurately. Myths and stereotypes permeate the popular media and have become embedded in the national psyche. It is vital that all young people are armed with the right knowledge and facts to discriminate between myth and reality. This report shows how good RE, in teaching of all the world’s religions…can support a school’s broader responsibility to create well-rounded, knowledgeable and adaptable young people.’

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