In today’s world there are many religions. Although each religion is different, they all share similarities and they all confront similar issues. People, either through ‘faith’ or otherwise, ask questions about meaning and value in a search for truth. The major world religions seek to put these questions into context. We look at how each religion answers such questions.
Everyone has beliefs of some kind. How do we know what to believe? How do we use evidence to decide what is true? The impression given today is that answers to all questions can be found exclusively through science. However as humans, there is another side to our nature – the spiritual aspect, which science cannot easily explain. We seek to identify how the spiritual needs of people today are awakened, channeled and satisfied.
Looking for ways of understanding their world leads everyone to have beliefs, whether or not they are religious. Some people believe in ‘God’, a ‘Divine Being’ and state that truth has been given or revealed by God in a variety of ways; through special people, sacred writing, worship and extraordinary experiences. Others either reject or are unsure about belief in God. They point to the challenges to religious belief raised by continuing developments in new areas of science. Despite all the wonderful scientific advances, it is religion which provides the world with optimism, of life after death. One of the greatest mysteries that the world religions have to face is ‘Why do people suffer?’. The world is full of news of disaster, of hurt, of suffering. Yet we often see individuals, throughout their lives and despite terrible experiences, acting with courage, sacrifice, understanding and compassion.
Religious Studies is a living subject which demands a dialogue between pupil and teacher. It seeks to pose questions about God and the purpose of life, involves a great deal of reflective and critical thinking and leads us towards an important part of ourselves, namely the spiritual side or our nature.
It is important that the teaching of the subject doesn’t become overly dependent on one style. The subject must be taught in an interesting and lively fashion with the use of rich and varied resources and with more than a passing consideration given to learning styles. Teaching and learning activities must meet the kinaesthetic, visual and auditory needs of the pupils.
Pupils will become familiar with various skills, including the;
- interpretation of text and recording of findings
- recognition of artefacts and understanding their use in religious practice
- compilation of information from own research
- formulation of questions and following trains of enquiry
- skills involved in critical thinking
- sequencing of events and working on chronology
- design and writing of a medium-length project
Pupils will have the opportunity of meeting individuals representing different religions and will also have the opportunity of visiting different places of worship.
Many of the 1st Form pupils will have followed programmes of study in the subject at their previous schools. However, so broad is the past coverage and so wide the subject matter, that we start our curriculum programme seeking to build the confidence of each child through enquiry and personal discovery.
The curriculum then gradually builds an understanding of the Old and New Testaments, focusing each year on specific periods and stories of interest. Alongside these studies the children undertake an annual in-depth study into one of the world’s major religions.
Form 4 RS is now taught as part of the new Humanities course and is assessed termly in a variety of ways to both measure developing skills and growing knowledge.
Religious Studies is taught in a modular form in the Upper School, as part of the Humanities course. Each term has a focus, be it an Old Testament introduction, New Testament introduction, Judaism or other such topic. The modules take the pupils to a much deeper level of study than in the middle school, analysing historical texts, understanding reliability of religious texts, and helping them understand balanced arguments.
At the end of each term, pupils are assessed in one form or another. Forms of assessment include a written test, presentation or computerised assessment.