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University leads groundbreaking study on Religious Education

The first in-depth study into the aims and effects of Religious Education in our schools is to be carried out by a team of UK academics led by the University of Glasgow.

The £365,326 three-year project – led by Professor Jim Conroy, Dean of the Faculty of Education in the University of Glasgow and jointly funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) - will create the single most comprehensive study to date of the state of Religious Education across the United Kingdom.

Dr Paul Gilfillan, lead ethnographer on the study said: “This programme is a timely recognition of the importance research councils, academics and governments attach to religion and questions of culture, identity and meaning today in the quest for more cohesive communities.

“The findings of study will help inform the substantial public conversation on whether the inclusion of religious education as a compulsory subject in the curriculum contributes to social cohesion and diversity or is constitutive of social division.”

Researchers will look at the legitimacy and value of a range of (sometimes conflicting) claims about the purposes of religious education asking: What are the claims different communities make about religious education? On what assumptions are they based? Are these assumptions susceptible to evidence? What are the dominant beliefs about the nature of society, personhood and childhood held in different jurisdictions and by opponents and proponents of the practices of religious education?

The study will examine religious education in the very different contexts of England and Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland and carry out a detailed analysis of students' lived experience of religious education as a shaping influence in 24 secondary schools across the UK.

A conference to present and discuss the findings of the project will be held at the University of Glasgow once the study is completed in December 2010.

Martin Shannon | alfa
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