Attempt to Formulate Your Own Definition of “Religious Education”

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Attempt to formulate your own definition of “Religious Education”

In this essay I will attempt to answer the question, what is Religious Education? I feel that this question can be interpreted in many different ways, and by so many people. What I am going to try to do is explain what Religious Education means to me. Before beginning this course I could have answered this question in one or two sentences. It would have gone a bit like this, “Religious Education, or RE as it is more commonly known, is the way in which children are taught about the work and life of Jesus and God by teachers”. To say this is a basic answer is an understatement! However, in many ways I think this is a good point from which to start.

During this course I have examined many aspects of religion; the Jewish Religion and its Scriptures, into which Jesus was born. I have examined the earliest documented testaments to Jesus and his teachings, death and resurrection contained in The New Testament. I have studied The Church which formed after Jesus’ resurrection. I also studied the Sacraments which are a continuation of Jesus’ mission and the Christian Morality which arise from His teaching. From each module I have came to the conclusion that faith in Jesus Christ and his teachings is essential when considering what Religious Education (RE) is. The essential features of our life of faith is a life led according to the ideals of the heart of the Gospel; the Kingdom of God. A life supported by an ever abiding Holy Spirit and a life which journeys towards God. Christian ways of life brings meaning to life, hope to the world and is very relevant in today’s world. (Life Light notes Page 2)

Having read through the notes on this module and studying several other texts it has been made clear that most authors of these books cannot commit to stating a clear and concise definition of what Religious Education (RE) is. Kevin Nichols, author of Cornerstone and a one-time National Advisor on RE, describes RE as an activity that examines the different aspects of religion. Thinking carefully of them allows the students to become familiar with the main landmarks of the world of religion and makes one’s own religious beliefs more intellectual and personal. (Life Lights notes, Page 5.) There are millions of people who have their own different definitions of what RE is. James Egan (New Catholic Encyclopaedia) states it is the, ’Presentation and assimilation of the teachings of Christ and his Church.’ Patrick Purnell (Our Faith Story) states that RE is, ‘exploration of the whole area of the meaning of life.’ In my opinion, all of these are correct. The view, and speaking form personal experience, is that many children in schools throughout the country are taught a narrow view of what RE is. Children are taught in an effort for them to become familiar with the teachings of Jesus. They are taught to pass exams and not question what a teacher is telling them. RE cannot be viewed this narrowly; it is a broad concept and as such, demands a more thorough examination of what it involves. I believe that RE in schools should become a broader learning environment, with pupils learning as much as they can about Jesus and his teachings, before making their own mind up and forming opinions on what RE means to them, allowing them to make a more intellectual decision. I will look at different activities that go under the name of ‘RE’.

There are many activities that constitute what RE is; they may be in the form of a pupil studying GCSE RE or a group of primary school children being prepared for First Holy Communion. However, we must also know is that RE takes place outside of a school environment. Many activities take place in a parish hall, a church or in the home. RE should be taught in schools, with communities reinforcing and widening the learning spectrum for children. RE should be a personal journey, which we start at Baptism and experience right up...
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