The British government has recommended that the basics of Hinduism be taught in schools because it is one of the six major religions in the country.
A report drawn up by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA), the government'scurriculum and examinations watchdog, says: “It is important that schools make every effort to ensure that during their school life, pupils encounter the principal religions.”
Welcoming the guidelines, Charles Clarke, Education Secretary of State, said: “Religious education plays an important part in our children'sspiritual, moral, social and cultural development. This is why we are making moves to strengthen its teaching in schools.”
The guidance, which is now going out for consultation, is not statutory-so schools will not be forced to follow it. But many are expected to follow its principles.
Apart from Hinduism, the guidelines on religious education say that students should also be taught the basics of Sikhism, Buddhism, Judaism, apart from Christianity.
The report also calls on young people to study other minority religious traditions, singling out the Baha?i faith, Jainism and Zoroastrianism in particular.
Pupils should also consider secular philosophies, such as humanism “in considering the ultimate questions and ethical issues”, the report adds. The document says pupils should be able to study minority religions that have a following in their community.
The report was broadly welcomed by all the faith groups.
The Church of England said that it recognised the “sensitivity with which the government and the QCA have handled the process” of devising a religious education curriculum.
The Muslim Council of Britain and the Muslim Educational Trust welcomed this initiative, saying it sought to promote a pluralistic society where one can retain both indivi-dual integrity as well as share that which is of corporate value and benefit to all.
The guidelines make it clear that Christianity should be studied by all pupils throughout their schooling-as the country'smain religion.
However, pupils should also study one other religion between the age of five and seven, at least two more between the age of seven and 11 and at least a further two between the age of 11 and 14-so as to cover all the principal religions by the time they leave school.
The guidelines add that teachers should aim to develop good relationships that respect the differences in people and warn of the “destructive power of prejudice” and the challenge of “racism, discrimination, offending behaviour and bullying”.
Between the ages of five and seven, pupils should visit different places of worship and understand “how and why religious people celebrate”, the report says.
Ken Boston, the chief executive of the QCA, said: “Religious education in this country is based on two principles-that it should be a statutory part of education for all pupils and that it should reflect the particular needs and circumstances of local communities.”
(The writer is a UK-based journalist and can be contacted on [email protected])