Religious Education is one of the two only compulsory areas in the Scottish Curriculum (the other is PE). So, what is it? Why do we even teach it? And how has the subject developed over the past few years?
The History and Development of RMPS in Scotland
In 1872, The Education Act of Scotland took education out of the hands of the church. Since this time, Religious Education has been a central part of the Scottish Curriculum.
Teaching up until 1980 primarily focussed on studying the Christian faith. In essence, the subject was essentially Christian Instruction rather than Religious Education. However, during the 1980’s this emphasis and focus began to change. Scotland was becoming increasingly multi-cultural and there became a need for Scottish youngsters to learn about the beliefs of other world faiths.
A policy change was needed and in 1991, advice on how schools should provide religious education was given in Circular 6/91. This document underlined the fundamental place of religious education in Scottish Schools. It also advised schools on the time allocation which should be made for RME, recommending a minimum of 5% of curricular time in S1/S2; a minimum of 80 hours over 2 years in S3 and S4; and a continuing element within the personal and social development programme of S5/S6. (Standards and Quality in Secondary School: Religious and Moral Education 1995 –2000).
Why is RMPS so Important?
I believe RMPS is central to the students’ curriculum. It plays not only an educational role but a personal and value based role as well. It is clear that RMPS as a subject helps to satisfy the many educational demands now being made of schools and staff. The development of the Curriculum for Excellence paper again helps to show that RMPS will continue to play a significant role in the years to come.
‘Our aspiration is to enable all children to develop their capacities as successful learners, confident individuals, responsible citizens and effective contributors to society.’
(‘A Curriculum for Excellence: The Curriculum Review Group’ 2004)
The Spiritual Rights of the Child
Also, we must not forget the Spiritual Rights of the Child. Edinburgh University lecturer Robert Kirkwood believes these rights are as follows:
- Every child has the right to know that there is a religious understanding of what it means to be ‘Human.’
- Every child has the right to the best of the spiritual heritance of her/his own culture.
- That every child brought us with a particular world-view (whether that be essentially materialistic or spiritual) has the right (and thus should be given the opportunity) to question, deepen, or alter her/his commitment.
- That every child with a spiritual commitment has the right to a schooling that does not hinder (either by commission or omission) any possible development of her/his spiritual life.
- That children have the right to express their spiritual life both publicly and privately.