NSS – The truth behind the upsurge in GCSEs in Religious Studies
The Church is cock-a-hoop over the news that there has been a “4.7% increase in the number of students taking Religious Education GCSEs”. The Church of England’s Head of School Improvement, Nick McKemey, believes the rise is a sign that students “appreciate the important role that religion plays in modern society”. “This further increase is evidence that more and more young people are fascinated by what they and others believe, and that they can see that the world is more fully understood by seeing past the various secularist claims that religion is mad, bad or extinct,” he said. “Overall this year’s GCSE results strongly suggest that schools – particularly church schools – that work hard to raise the attainment of pupils of all abilities and backgrounds are achieving the greatest success at GCSE.”
The assumption made by Mr McKemey and others in the church is that studying religion, or learning about religion, makes you more likely to be religious. If you follow that sort of reasoning, you might assume that studying maths is more likely to make you a maths specialist, or that studying French will make you a linguist. Not so. The courses include other religions besides Christianity and should include Humanism and secular world views. Why assume that young people will be more interested in Christianity than other religions? This is just wishful thinking.
In my experience, few young people in secondary schools describe themselves as religious – various research studies have confirmed this. Teaching young people about religion seems to have the effect of making them more skeptical when it’s taught impartially, as it should be. It’s not a teacher’s job to convert anyone.