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Last Updated: Sunday, 15 February, 2004, 12:57 GMT
RE studies 'should cover atheism'
school lesson
There is currently no national teaching framework for RE
Non-religious beliefs should be taught as part of compulsory religious education, a thinktank report suggests.

Atheism, agnosticism and humanism should be taught to encourage students to discuss ethical dilemmas, the Institute of Public Policy Research said.

It also suggested "religious education" should be re-named "religious, philosophical and moral education".

Religious education is not part of the national curriculum but by law all schools have to provide it.

The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, which regulates the curriculum, is currently drawing up a national framework for religious education.

The report comes as French politicians voted to ban all obvious religious symbols, including Islamic headscarves, Christian crosses and Jewish skullcaps, from schools.


The institute, in a report due out on Monday, said students needed to be encouraged to study philosophical and ethical problems and be taught to evaluate evidence and argument.

Senior research fellow Ben Rogers said: "Now that only seven per cent of Britons attend a weekly religious service, many are arguing for the abolition of RE as a compulsory subject - we disagree.

"RE has an important place in the curriculum - but only if it's brought up to date."


It was important people learned to converse with those of different faiths and think critically about their own, they said.

The institute said: "Dropping religion from the syllabus, or banning the expression of religious beliefs from schools, as in France, won't make religious strife go away - if anything it will exacerbate it.

"Religious education can play an important part in combating prejudices."

But too often it had "a pro-religious and in some cases anti-science bias".

The institute said there were almost as many RE syllabuses in England as there were education authorities, with each opting to draw up their own.

"IPPR believes it is vital that not just teachers and faith groups, but children, parents and the wider teaching community are consulted and involved."

The BBC's Sophie Hutchinson
"RE is one of the oldest compulsory subjects"

French headscarf ban opens rifts
11 Feb 04  |  Europe
British criticism of headscarf ban
10 Feb 04  |  Education
What 15 year olds now have to study
03 Oct 03  |  Education


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