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Religious Education in Schools

Introduction

Education in humanities, social sciences, and school is an important tool for making it better or easier for people to live together in a society that is diverse with harmony. School is now one of the few collectives or common arenas where these issues can be taken up. That’s one of the reasons why religious education is still important in school. Religious education in laymen’s terms could be understood as the education concerned with the study of religion and can be defined as providing knowledge and education regarding either specifically one or various religions at the school level. Religious education involves some specific type of teaching that isn’t much linked with the academic world. Religious faith is the sole ideology that religious education takes into consideration. The age group of students in schools is considered to be the age group that plays a crucial role in one’s life because in that age period child’s brain functions to its optimum level. In that age group what a child’s beliefs and principles are built up remains with him/her whole life. Religious education does various important work like encouraging young people to value themselves and the community with which they live. 

How it can be achieved

To work with how to teach and learn religion in school, you need to know something about it in a society that is changing all the time. In today’s world, we are teaching about religion and different world views and to do that, we have to know something about the changes that are happening to religion in society and try to filter that into schools as well. The pupils we meet in school are living in the same society and used to live together with people with different beliefs and religions. That has to be reflected also in the teaching and learning in school. 

A critical analysis (Teaching religion in today’s classroom)

Religious education research is normative in the sense that it is trying to find a solution and suggest ways of working with teaching/learning in school. But it’s also descriptive science- researching how young people and teachers think about religion. Sometimes the teachers say that it’s difficult to get the pupils to open up. In many places there is also a situation where the secular pupils keep on dominating the classroom, sometimes this makes the pupils with religious backgrounds feel less confident coming out with their views. Then you get a discussion in the classroom that is not representing the views of the pupils and also does not represent the views of the people in the society. The plurality in society is not represented in the classroom and there is a challenge for the teacher to deal with this. Many teachers in religion don’t have sufficient subject area knowledge to enter these discussions. The pupils know more than the teachers. Another difficulty is that teachers sometimes are a bit insecure about the tensions among the pupils and therefore are reluctant to enter the discussions.

Many times, discussion suffers from that. But many teachers on the other hand are also interested in developing their teaching into a better environment in the classroom. In the world, there are various nations like Great Britain and Scotland where religious education is mandatory. 

The Judiciary and Religion in Educational Institution vis-á-vis Hijab Ban

Government restricted the Hijab in the classrooms. The matter went to the government. The following points were discussed by the court while giving its decision which was in the government’s favor.

  • Hijab was found not an essential religious practice in Islam-

This very argument was brought in by the petitioner and the court looked into it and found that the hijab is not an essential religious practice. In other words, it is not that the entire community practices in India and is not something that restricts the faith in itself that if this is not done then religion will itself cease to exist, so this practice is not that essential.

  • The school order was found to be under reasonable restriction-

This argument states that the whole idea of the uniform need not be what it is.

  • Government order not found violative of Hijab student’s rights-

Issue of a fundamental right does not come here in the form of the uniform what was asked by the College Development Council and the college, in this case, is a reasonable restriction because an institution’s rights are also protected and that was something that was established by previous judgments.

The honourable court has rightly decided so, considering that even though people have the fundamental right to practice, profess and propagate their religion enshrined under the Indian Constitution but that is subject to some reasonable restrictions. Moreover, wearing a hijab is not an essential practice in the Islamic religion.

Should Holy books be taught in religious institutions?

India is a secular country but full of diverse religions. In such a nation, will the inclusion of holy books in the curriculum be justified? All the holy books, be it Shrimad Bhagawat Gita, Quran, The Bible or Guru Granth Sahib Ji contains spiritual lessons that make one emotionally and intellectually strong and morally right. As the youth of any country is considered to be the future of that country so its youth should get knowledge of their literature which builds and develop their moral and ethical principles. Hence, teaching lessons from these holy books to youth will help them to take the right decision in their life more accurately and will make them follow a righteous path which ultimately helps them in becoming good citizens of the nation.

National Education Policy (NEP) unveiled by the center also advocates the introduction of modern and ancient culture, tradition, and knowledge systems so that students feel proud of India’s rich and diverse culture. In the line with the same, recently, the Gujarat government announced that Bhagavad Gita will be a part of the school syllabus for classes 6 to 12 in the state. The step taken by the government is very appreciative. It would be very beneficial for the students and the nation if other state governments move in a similar direction and aspire to teach students religious books across religions.  

Why the religious education should be imparted among students?

Imparting knowledge about various religions will make children have a broad awareness of all the religions. It will help them to make an informed decision on which religion they want to profess, which is better than learning only about the religion being practiced at home1.

Furthermore, religious education teaches children about various gods and goddesses and allows them to learn and develop their characteristics and imbibe their good qualities which make them prepared for the next level of their life called adult life. 

We know that religion is a strong weapon that can divide society. The weapon could be deadly if it is not understood well. Hence, it becomes more significant to develop a deep understanding to prevent division, ignorance, and prejudice which can be overtly seen with the increase in multi-faith societies.

Many argue that because people are not taught to be open about other religions while growing up. For some, religion is a very personal thing and if they feel attacked about their religion they take it as personally as if it is an attack on their family. So, teaching religion in schools will make children aware of the wide spectrum of religions and will help them to draw a line between their religious beliefs and who they are.

Every religion irrespective of what a person follow contains a whole lot amount of knowledge that could answer the questions related to the life of a human from birth to death and even after death questions. All questions whether related to happiness or sorrow, one’s religion is capable of answering them all.

All the above-mentioned benefits make it necessary for the nation to have religious education in schools and academic curriculum

Is teaching religious education legal in India?

Recently, the Supreme Court also allowed the teaching of religion in school but mentioned that schools should refrain from giving any kind of preference or special treatment over the other. Schools also should refrain from promoting particular religious texts as the only available truth. The ruling of the honorable Supreme Court is a step necessary to preserve the secular fabric of the nation.

Conclusion & Way forward

Religion is the most diligent topic in any nation which can easily attract the hatred of people belonging to the minority class. Loyalty to one may become an obstruction to loyalty to another religion. These limitations obstruct the development of students into ethical citizens of a free and democratic society. Government should be cautious to keep all religions and their values and practices balanced. Government should not perform and even should not get portrayed preferencing any specific religion in any way or treating any specific religion with less attention. The same could be seen in India where the constitution itself preserves the secular character of the nation. Moreover, the government of our nation can not follow any religion. Government should perform various pieces of research to amend national education policy and should introduce compulsory academic related to religious education in schools. If public grants are distributed on a non-preference basis to all religious communities, then little is left of the claims that the partial funding of educational institutions run by religious communities places an unfair burden on other members of society. It is possible that an element of unfairness still exists if some religious communities receive grants while others do not.

It may be claimed that this issue can be solved if kids from various religious backgrounds interact with one another, as they do in state-run schools, and discover that there are other ways of thinking and being than the ones their parents have taught them. They may even come to respect other people’s opinions and ways of thinking. Additionally, this variety need not just be seen in public schools. If religiously linked institutions are also available to students of different faiths, as they are in India, it may be promoted there. Even if it is smaller than at entirely state-run schools, this variety may be sufficient to promote inter-religious toleration, which may, in turn, foster civic camaraderie and uphold civic principles. Schools with a religious affiliation may also promote communication between individuals via negotiation and compromise. But up until now, a school has simply served as a casual setting for religious tolerance. The subject of interreligious education, or effectively understanding different religions, is not addressed.


References

  1. The Hindu Bureau, ‘Gujarat schools to teach Bhagvad Gita’ (The Hindu, 17 March 2022), https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/gujarat-to-introduce-bhagavad-gita-for-classes-6-to-12/article65235296.ece
  2. Rajeev Bhargava, ‘Religious Education in a Secular State’ (2013) 40(3) IIC Quarterly, https://www.jstor.org/stable/24394393

This article is written by Vedwrat Arya, 3rd year law student pursuing BA.LLB Hons. from Dr. BR Ambedkar National Law University, Sonipat.

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