As I discussed in my last article, RE has changed an awful lot over its 70+ year history. The subject has transformed from one that promoted one religion to studying many different religions and non-religious practices.
In 2018, the Commission on Religious Education delivered its final report that recommended a new vision for the subject. Firstly, the report provided a completely new way of framing the subject as “Religion & Worldviews” (or just R&W) rather than Religious Education. Which has led to much discussion and spirited debate among teachers and educators: whilst we can define what a Religion is, what is a Worldview?
What is a Worldview?
In its simplest form, a Worldview can be described as: how, on an intellectual level, a person experiences and finds meaning in the world and people around them. A person’s Worldview can be informed by family, community, country, ethnicity, and religious denomination.
As you can see, the scope of RE/R&W has been broadened and now includes study far beyond the core tenets and traditions of a religion. Which is why one of the second major changes suggested within the 2018 recommendations of the adoption of disciplines when studying RE/R&W.
By disciplines, we mean academic disciplines or using different academic approaches or methodologies to study and aspect of a religion or worldview. This is an area that is still be hotly debated, with disciplines of theology, philosophy, social sciences, anthropology and history all suggested. In my county of Norfolk, we use theology, philosophy and social sciences – or believing, thinking and living as our pupils renamed them.
There is great debate as to what these disciplines are. How do you teach theology to 6-year olds and to sixth formers? Should philosophy be an approach or should pupils be studying philosophical traditions and thinking such as those of Aristotle or John Stewart Mill? Social Sciences is a huge catch-all term that could include a whole swathe of different academic disciplines.
With such major changes being suggested, there has been much discussion and debate among teachers and educators. One project leading the conversation on crucial change towards a Worldviews Curriculum is ReformingRE.
This teacher-led project, brings together teachers and educators from all stages of education to exchange and discuss their innovative classroom practice and research; discussing their findings with other teachers. ReformingRE provides teachers of RE with practical ideas for curriculum change reflecting the national entitlement. Members of the project include teachers and educators from a whole host of backgrounds and experiences, from primary teachers at the beginning of their careers to former heads of national RE organisations.
So far, ReformingRE has shared ideas on a whole range of ideas including: principles of curriculum design; the portrayal of Jesus in religious art; using history to teach RE; how to lead curriculum change; and how our sense of self informs our teaching. The writing from contributors is very much a conversation and is not academic in nature. Even if you have little or no experience of RE/R&W you will find the ideas interesting and accessible. Over the coming months there will be many more ideas published to help primary and secondary teachers, trainee teachers, and their tutors/mentors, in developing and teaching a subject with a new identity.
By walking you make a path
Religion & Worldviews is at the very beginning of its journey of transformation. Even the words of this new name are still being defined through conversation among teachers and educators! There is much to discuss and explore in this exciting and uncharted area of learning. Teachers and educators are heading out in to the great unknown and discussing changes that will lead to policy change and a rebirth of their subject.