A number of petitions seem to be doing the rounds at present, encouraging the Government to include Religious Studies in the list of subjects included within the new English Baccalaureate qualification they are introducing. Rather than sign a petition I thought I would write my own letter which follows:
Rt Hon Michael Gove MP
Secretary of State for Education
Dear Mr Gove
I write to request that you include Religious Education in the humanities subjects admitted within the new English Baccalaureate. There is much in your recent drive to improve standards that I wish to support; in particular the belief that as far as possible children should study a broad foundation of academic subjects to GCSE level including English, Maths, Science, Languages and Humanities. However, Religious Education should be included within the humanities subjects recognised for the following reasons:
1. Whilst I would wish all students to study a broad range of humanities a significant proportion will only study one or two subjects to GCSE level. This will likely lead some schools to channel funding only to those subjects recognised within the Baccalaureate. Although limited teaching of Religious Education may remain compulsory the more academically rigorous teaching of full course Religious Education will be compromised by its exclusion.
2. An understanding of Religion is as important as knowledge of History and Geography. Indeed, it is only with an overview of the history of religious life in the UK that one can make sense of the rise of the nation state, the development of a work ethic and the growth of democracy. Increasingly our society is shaped by responses to Islam and the growth of more militant forms of Atheism. Students who study Religious Education have opportunity to learn about these various faith positions and to appreciate both the manner in which they have shaped our history and culture as well as understand how other countries have developed in different ways. This knowledge is vital if we are to enable young people to grow into responsible citizens within British society and to develop people who are able to work in a global market and culture.
3. Full course Religious Education introduces students to basic concepts in philosophy and ethics, enabling them to begin to think through issues for themselves making connections between what they believe and the moral choices they make.
4. In choosing options for GCSE, Religious Education is as important as History and Geography. Where students are choosing to study only one or two of these subjects there is no reason to prefer History and Geography over Religious Education. Indeed there is a good argument that if a pupil is only studying one of these subjects then Religious Education may well be of greater benefit because it is a subject which develops an appreciation of both history and global issues.
My own son has recently chosen the subjects he will study to GCSE; a process that has given me opportunity to consider the course curriculum for all three of these subjects. In comparison, the Religious Education curriculum is noteworthy for the manner in which it focuses on core academic issues and for a method of assessment heavily weighted towards examinations rather than course work.
I look forward to your assurance that Religious Education will be included within the English Baccalaureate subjects.