Almost two-thirds of British adults say school children need to learn about Christianity in order to understand English history, culture, and way of life, according to a new poll from Oxford University. But current religious education courses that teach Christianity can be "incoherent" or lack "intellectual development," says Oxford's Nigel Fancourt.
One solution, according to Fancourt, is a new program designed by Oxford's department of education to improve how Christianity is taught. The release of the poll, which surveyed 1,800 British adults, coincides with the program's release.
In England, state schools require mandatory religious education classes until the age of 16. Moreover, law requires that school curriculum reflects Christianity as the country's main religious tradition.
However, some teachers and humanist groups fear that teaching Christianity amounts to "evangelizing." Andrew Copson of the British Humanist Association points out that the Oxford poll "showed that people in Britain primarily viewed Christianity as a matter of history and cultural heritage rather than as a matter of religion."
The British National Secular Society also questioned the poll's results, speculating that it was conducted by "evangelical Christians surreptitiously pushing forward their agenda under a respectable academic cover."
But the debate over religious education in British schools has been long and ongoing—and recently sparked legal changes to a funding agreement for state-funded, faith-based "free schools."
In July, the U.K. approved the opening of more than 100 free, state-funded schools, a third of which identified themselves ...1