Russia to teach religion in schools

Russia’s president, Dmitry Medvedev, has announced a pilot project which would offer 250,000 students the choice of classes in their own religion, a comparative course on religion or secular classes on ethics.

A previous attempt to introduce religious education as part of the school curriculum in Russia failed, through successful opposition by secularists. This time round, Medvedev appears to have neutered this by offering a secular option.

As reported in Australia’s Courier Mail, President Medvedev underlined the significance of the separation of churh and state in Russia, while wishing to establish a standard for religious education. There is fear of dominance of the Orthodox Church, hence the options for classes for Muslim, Jewish and other faiths.

I am intrigued about the secular/ethics option, as I do not know this to exist in Northern Ireland. That is, while religious education can be presented to include a diversity of faiths, and may include a secular/ethics dimension, there is no option for a pupil to opt out of the non-secular lessons, i.e. only take the secular/ethics lessons.

I remain uncomfortable with incorporating religious education an integral part of the school curriculum (I’m a strong proponent of the separation of church and state, believing both corrupt the other). Perhaps the right way forward is to put the Russian method in the Irish system: choices with lessons taught outside the curriculum.

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