Hit by terror attacks, France introduces religious education in schools
After having suffered a series of jihadist attacks since January 2015, the secular nation of France is carefully developing religion as part of its academic curriculum in schools, to better prepare and sensitize its young population. Under "secular teaching of religious facts," elements of religious beliefs have been included in other subjects. But how equipped are teachers to implement this new initiative?
France's secular education system was created in the 1880s. Except for schools in Alsace and Moselle, which were part of Germany at the time, religion is not taught in any form to the 10 million students enrolled in the state schools across the nation.
It is no easy feat to teach religion in a country where its practice is dying. Though several teachers have agreed to participate in the successful implementation of the directive, they feel under-prepared. They are expected to field questions from students of various faiths without engaging in confrontations with them, when in most cases, they haven't studied the texts they are teaching.
Classroom discussions aren't just limited to questions on faith or religion. They often digress into heated debates on issues like the Holocaust or the Israeli-Palestine conflict or Darwin's theory. Though the state has launched an online course to train teachers, it might be expecting a bit much from them here, wanting them to find time to study while working.
Along with religion, the French education system is also focusing on imparting moral and civic education to its students. The move aims to promote, among pupils, republican values and highlight the need for freedom of speech and opinion. However, with only half an hour dedicated to it each week, the seriousness of this new move remains questionable.
France has been plagued with terrorist attacks since 2015. Claimed by radical Islamists, the incidents have killed over 240 people in two years. The November 2015 Paris attacks and the mass shooting at Charlie Hebdo's Paris office shook the world with sheer horror.