Written evidence submitted by Professor
Judith Lieu, Chair of the Faculty Board, Faculty of Divinity,
University of Cambridge |
1. The memorandum urges the inclusion of Religious
Studies as a core Humanities subject in the English Baccalaureate.
It is important for society that young people are encouraged to
acquire an informed understanding of and the development of critical
skills in relation to religious claims, styles of argument, and
texts. As an examined subject, Religious Studies provides geographical,
historical and cultural understanding, and develops critical and
analytical skills, analogous to other recognized core Humanities
2. This submission is being made by Professor
Judith Lieu, Lady Margaret's Professor of Divinity at the University
of Cambridge and Chair of the Faculty Board. It is written on
behalf of the Faculty following discussion and consultation. The
Faculty has specific experience in the teaching of Theology and
Religious Studies at University level, and is in regular contact
with schools where the subject is taught for public examination.
3. It should be noted that around 190,000 students
took a full GCSE course in Religious Studies in 2010. The GCSE
is designed to develop an informed understanding of a range of
religious positions and judgments, and to prompt a critical engagement
with religious, philosophical and ethical questions. It forms
a foundation for an increasing number of students to continue
with the study of Religious Studies at A level; here many students
take options that further challenge them to think critically about
philosophical and ethical questions, while others encounter critical
analysis of core religious texts and traditions.
4. There is a statutory requirement for all students
to undertake a course in Religious Education or Religious Studies
at Key Stage 4, but this is often taught by non-specialists. The
full GCSE course, and beyond that the A Level course, demand greater
rigour and offer a higher level of attainment.
5. It is imperative in today's society that young
people are encouraged to develop the skills and understanding
that will enable them to respond to religious ideas and to religious
diversity, critically, intelligently, and with tolerance. Equally
necessary must be the stimulus for self-reflective responses to
the ethical decisions society as a whole, and individuals, face.
More generally, it is the nature of Religious Studies as a discipline
that it nurtures historical awareness, an understanding of how
texts function in society, and a sensitivity to cultural difference,
all skills that are at the heart of the importance of placing
a Humanities subject as a core subject in the English Baccalaureate.
6. There is a danger that if GCSE Religious Studies
is not recognized as a core Humanities subject for the English
Baccalaureate, schools will reduce their provision for it. This
in turn will have a deleterious effect on the number of students
taking the subject at A Level, and in turn, those taking related
courses at University. While University courses in Theology and
Religious Studies, as also in courses in Philosophy and in Ethics,
do not demand an A Level in Religious Studies, many students do
discover their enthusiasm for the subject at school. Graduates
in these disciplines, who may go on to a range of occupations
in society, bring with them further-developed skills of sensitivity
to and critical thinking about the moral and religious values
7. A further consideration is the need for well-qualified
people to teach Religious Studies at school level. In the past
the subject was sometimes treated as a "Cinderella"
subject that anyone could offer in their spare time. The increasing
regard that has been given it in recent years has demanded graduates
who could bring a range and depth of knowledge as well as an enthusiasm
to inspire young people of the value of addressing questions of
religious understanding openly. In turn this has prompted revisions
of the RS curriculum, sometimes through co-operation between University
Departments and Examination Bodies. It is therefore imperative
that a channel of affirmative recognition run through from GCSE
to A level and so to University.
8. Her Majesty's Government, through the Department
of Education, is urged to include Religious Studies as a core
Humanities Subject in the English Baccalaureate, and to give public
support to the teaching of the subject in all schools.
21 March 2011