Recently I’ve noticed that there had been a little surge in the research of RE and the role/place/importance it has in classrooms of today.
Of course, some reading this blog may not be aware of what RE is (if I am that fortunate to have such a global audience). Simply, Religious Education is a compulsory part of the school curriculum in the UK (at least England and Wales as far as I’m aware) in which children learn about different religions, traditions in those faiths and what they can learn about humanity from a study of those faiths. Illegal to teach in some countries but here in England, with our 18th century based education not so!
Anyway, what does this have to do with producing independent learners you may ask? Let’s consider it this way:
Let’s face it, if a teacher is going to teach the beliefs of certain religions you are asking for trouble. As you would expect this will open up a potential minefield of questions which, if dealt with rashly, could cause a riot. The first principle must be: be positive and give praise. We WANT children to be asking questions, surely? So even if you are asked why does God allow suffering to happen if He is real, point out that this is a great question, you yourself have wondered that too.
Now here’s the independent learner bit – with most questions there is no definite ‘factual’ answers you can give (e.g. God allows suffering because of x, y and z, or, because there is no God, simple) as a teacher. But I might respond “that is a question that has been asked my humans for centuries and centuries… I don’t have the answer!” In my opinion, especially in these circumstances, it’s OK to not know everything. “Let’s have a look together using the different religious views we’ve been looking at” and you’re away!
I know as a teacher I am sometimes frightened to not know the answer to what a child asks. But, I am not an encyclopaedia, I am a teacher, a guide to children so they can become life long learners. The big questions in RE are a brilliant tool to help the children recognise that you do not know all, see all or have all power, but if they follow you, they can begin to know more for themselves through the skills you hope to teach them!