Francesca Collyer-Powell who plans to train as an RE teacher created this short article as part of her work for the TeachRE Subject Knowledge Course. We were so impressed we had to share it with you!
WHY RE? – for parents.
RE is an incredibly exciting and challenging subject which holds an important place on the school timetable. Its ability to combine academic rigour with inner-reflection and personal development creates the unique opportunity for young people to develop key skills for the future. Here are a few (but not exhaustive) reasons why RE should be on the timetable and how RE benefits the minds, skills and future prospects of young people.
As a parent, you will be pleased to learn that RE is certainly not a “soft option” and is, in fact, respected as a serious academic subject. Students of RE face academic challenge in every lesson as they discover complex religious and philosophical systems. In class, we enquire into the beliefs and worldviews of the world religions, such as Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism and Sikhism (and more!) to understand the meaning of their beliefs and practices. Crucially, students do not need to be religious to study RE. RE encourages young people to enquire, question and debate every aspect of religion and philosophy. It provides an invaluable opportunity for young people to think critically about belief and to exchange ideas within the classroom.
As young people stretch their minds through enquiry and debate, they develop tangible academic skills such as the ability to write logically and coherently, to present their considered arguments persuasively, and to analyse abstract concepts and complex religious texts. Beyond academia, students develop their communication skills as they discuss in class, and learn to respond to different viewpoints thoughtfully and with an open mind. In RE, students develop their ability to exchange thought, present ideas logically, to analyse and problem-solve, to focus on detail while also seeing the bigger picture and to deal with controversial and difficult issues. These are all invaluable skills needed in professions such as business, law, medicine, politics, and many others. RE, therefore, provides young people with real skills for their professional futures.
RE also plays a significant part in the personal development of the young person. Through detailed enquiry and in-depth discussion, young people develop a deeper understanding of both local and world culture. Learning about religions within local, national and global contexts encourages students to reflect on their own existence and how their own views fit within the local and global contexts. Equally, students of RE strive to grasp an understanding of the worldviews and beliefs of different cultures other than their own, which importantly expands the young person’s mind to practice intelligent empathy and sensitivity.
Furthermore, RE provides a valuable space for young people to think and discuss the big ethical and moral questions of life. Within this space, students begin to develop their considered responses to the world and formulate their independent views. Crucially, the RE classroom creates a fertile ground upon which students are encouraged to grow into free-thinking, critical, analytical, empathetic and thoughtful adults.
Overall, RE stands out on the school timetable as an incredibly unique subject which contributes to both the academic, professional and personal development of every student who studies it. For the above reasons, I assure parents that RE remains on the timetable as a brilliant, well-respected and eye-opening subject.
Brine, A., ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm: In Search of Theological Illiteracy’, in RE Matters, RE:Online, http://www.reonline.org.uk/news/curb-your-enthusiasm-in-search-of-theological-illiteracy/ (6th October, 2016)
Moulin-Stoźek, D., ‘The Penultimate Curiosity: a blog about science and religious education’, in RE Matters, RE:Online, http://www.reonline.org.uk/news/daniels-blog-the-penultimate-curiosity-a-blog-about-science-and-religious-education/ (28th February, 2017)
RE:Online, Why RE? (esp. The Whole Person Rationale, The Academic Rationale, The Human Development Rationale), http://www.reonline.org.uk/knowing/why-re/ (1998-2017)
Rudge, L., ‘RE in the Curriculum’, in P. Barnes and A. Wright (eds), Learning to Teach Religious Education in the Secondary School: A companion to school experience, (Routledge, 2008), pp. 9-27
The Religious Education Council of England Wales, A Review of Religious Education in England, (October 2013), pp. 11-29
Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, Non-Statutory National Framework for Religious Education, (Department of Education, London, 2004)