Issue of teaching religion in Russian schools still festers


RIA Novosti, 2 August 2016


The study of religion by school children is necessary, but a separate course for each religious movement should not be introduced, especially when one considers all stages of secondary education, Borukh Gorin, the director of the department for public relations of the Federation of Jewish Community of Russia [Federatsiia Evreiskikh Obshchin Rossii—FEOR], declared.


Earlier, new media reported that the Russian Academy of Education had sent for expert analysis in a number of organizations a draft of a course "Orthodox Culture" for school children which supposedly is being suggested to be made compulsory for all grades, while pupils are not offered alternatives in the form of a choice to study the foundations of another religious culture that is traditional for the Russian federation. The Russian Orthodox Church has declared that "the point is a model educational curriculum that would not in any case be compulsory," and representatives of other confessions could develop it.


"For us, it is completely obvious that if the Foundations of Religious Culture and Secular Ethics, in its present form, were extended to all eleven grades (at present the subject is taught in the 4th and 5th grades—ed.), then this problem will only be multiplied many times over. There is also another difficulty: in the current curriculum, there is not enough time for a profound study of all subjects to a full extent, and the introduction of an additional compulsory course on such a scale will inevitably and sharply decrease the number of hours of study of other subjects, which, in turn, will increase pressure on the teaching staff," the FEOR press service quotes Gorin.


He is also sure that "such an expansion of the study of the Foundations of Religious Culture and Secular Ethics course will lead to raising of yet another strong barrier among children," since "constant division of school children into representatives of various religions will act in the exact opposite direction" from the idea of a united civil nation. Gorin said that this will engender among children "a sense of 'otherness' with respect to classmates who do not belong to their religion."


The FEOR representative recalled that previously the Jewish community of the Russian federation proposed introducing a single course on the foundations of world religions and secular ethics for all pupils without division into modules, which would give them an understanding of the main traditional religions and would solve the problem of ensuring for all equal access to understanding of religions in the schools. At the same time he noted that the Foundations of Religious Culture and Secular Ethics course "is extremely important for our schools," since "knowledge about religion is quite necessary both for expanding the horizons of pupils and for their moral development." (tr. by PDS, posted 3 August 2016)

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