Britain may have a reputation for secularism, but England still requires students to have "high-quality" religious education (RE) until age 16. However, the proposed removal of RE test scores from graduation requirements may leave schools with even less incentive to teach Christianity—and other religions—well.
A recent poll by Oxford's department of education found that RE classes are often "incoherent" or lack "intellectual development." Nearly 40 percent said many teachers don't know enough about Christianity to teach it effectively.
"[This] could affect church evangelism," said Nigel Fancourt, chair of the University of Oxford's Departmental Research Ethics Committee.
Even so, church leaders still support RE. "You wouldn't stop teaching math because it is poorly taught and pupils are put off," said Trevor Cooley, director of the National Institute for Christian Education Research. "You'd teach it better."
Krish Kandiah, an executive director at the UK's Evangelical Alliance, acknowledges that presenting a bland—or even misleading—gospel could hinder evangelism by providing "another level of resistance." Yet most young adults who hold negative views about the church do so because of the church itself, not because of RE lessons, he said.
So what does "better" RE look like? Stephen Pett, editor of RE Today and author of The Bible: The Big Story, advocates for a more effective RE curriculum on the diversity of religious traditions and practices.
On the other hand, Nick Spencer, research director for Christian think tank Theos, places the emphasis on quality teachers who will convey ...1