Religious Education appears to be heading further towards the margins as a consequence of measures such as E-Bac and the short supply of teachers qualified and willing to engage. There seems to be a substantial coalition happy to see this trend continue – those who do not value the subject’s contribution to the curriculum in terms of a relevance to the needs of the economy (interesting that RE has grown in popularity as a GCSE and A level in recent years) and those who feel that it is better to leave it to the home and to the faith organisations. Both views flying in the face of traditional notions about the proper scope of a liberal education but hey, I’m out of step! Needless to say the problem is less acute in the schools that provide for the elites, but that’s another suitcase.
One defence of the subject clearly relates to the need to provide the young with opportunities to reflect on their own attitudes and beliefs (and so protect themselves from indoctrination) and the need to support and inform a tolerant, multi cultural society. One could add notions of helpful knowledge in relation to understanding our own history and culture to this mix. The new technologies can be readily used by a subject that perhaps more than any other, needs to reach out beyond the classroom. Allowing RE to lapse back to the grim days of Religious Instruction makes schools continuously vulnerable to the accusation that they are failing society. Whilst acknowledging that there is a process of evolution in relation to religion and society, how sure are we that we no longer need to deliver the subject’s entitlements, when at best there will be fewer children who learn about religion at home or in society and at worst, when what they do hear might be similar to the process of a vacuum being filled with poisonous gas.