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Does religious education promote good community relations?

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The aims of religious education (RE) as a curriculum subject are contested and under constant review. One particular aim widely promoted by policymakers, practitioners and other stakeholders is that RE distinctively among curriculum subjects, prepares future citizens for life in a religiously and culturally diverse society. I support the view that publicly-funded schooling should prepare young people for religious and cultural diversity as an aim; furthermore, that RE taught well contributes in a distinctive way to this endeavour. I pursue this issue with particular reference to schools in England and in response to a report by the All Party Parliamentary Group on RE (APPG) published in 2014, RE and Good Community Relations. I offer a theoretical analysis – based upon Bruner’s ‘Folk Pedagogies’ (1996) – which anticipates future investigation into how RE might best promote inter-religious and cultural understanding alone, to the detriment of other legitimate aims for the subject. Secondly, it needs to be clear in pedagogical terms how RE promotes inter-religious and cultural understanding. In preparing this ground, I argue that claims for the subject by religious educators and their supporters should not be overblown; furthermore that policymakers’ expectations of what might be achieved through RE should not become inflated.
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Keywords: community relations; intercultural understanding; pedagogy; religious education (RE)

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Graduate School of Education, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK

Publication date: January 2, 2015

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