Many people hold the view that religious studies at school are nothing more than a filler subject, with students and their parents nonplussed about grades. While core subjects such as maths, science and literacy will always be the main three lessons, religious studies should always hold a special place on the timetable.
We are at an important moment in time where racism is being challenged and the inequalities that the previous generation had to ensure are, slowly, starting to be broken down. There remains much work to be done, though, and we are far from being at a point in time where we can say that racism is a thing of the past.
The reality is that, sadly, no matter how hard we try there will always be racism of some kind. What is in our power, though, is continuing to try to teach new generations the importance of accepting people as they are, seeing past what makes us different and focusing on what makes us the same. Education plays a key role in this and, without it, society, and humanity as we know it would be doomed to fail.
What do Students Learn in Religious Studies?
Students will learn the key fundamentals of religion and their festivals – including Christmas, Diwali, and Ramadan amongst numerous others. Not only will they be taught the stories and what followers of each religion believe, but they will also learn how followers demonstrate their faith in the present day.
They will also form an understanding of how many of the world’s major religions intertwine. After all, many of the most well-known religious names, just as Jesus, Muhammad, and Noah all feature in Christianity, Islam and Judaism – which are collectively known and Abrahamic religions.
Understanding the similarities is key because knowing what is Qurbani and the story of Ibrahim that forms the basis of the festival can also provide an understanding of other festivals – not just in Islam, but for others, too. Knowledge is power and, primarily, fear is of the unknown and that forms the basis of much of the prejudice that is experienced. By breaking down ignorance and replacing that with information, also breaks down barriers that exist between communities.
Religious studies are often regarded as one of the easier subjects on the timetable, with students supposedly finding it easier to pass than others. More than 80% of GCSE students in the UK achieved a C grade or above in 2020, compared to 76.3% for all subjects. For students looking to advance to higher education, religious studies present an opportunity for students to top up their academic credentials, all while learning about other cultures.
To pass religious studies, students are not faced with questions that demand a specific right or wrong answer. As long as the answer can be backed up well, this will earn students the marks they seek. This teaches the student to be able to form an opinion from facts, having researched and displayed a clear understanding of what it is they are discussing.
As students move through key educational stages, and eventually into adulthood and the workplace, this is a skill that will hold them in good stead. They will often be challenged in such a way, where they are expected to form an opinion and pick a side based on the evidence that is presented in front of them. Even though this may not directly relate to religion, this helps students form basic life skills whereby they can debate with people who hold different opinions, without resorting to hateful language and/or actions.