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RELIGIOUS EDUCATION IN SCHOOL – WHY AND WITH WHAT GROUNDS. Antti Räsänen University of Helsinki, Finland Finnish-Baltic Initiative  conference in developing  Teacher Training for RE 23. – 27.9.2005 Tartu University, Estonia. From the past to the present.

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religious education in school why and with what grounds


Antti Räsänen

University of Helsinki, Finland

Finnish-Baltic Initiative conference in developing  Teacher Training for RE

23. – 27.9.2005 Tartu University, Estonia

from the past to the present
From the past to the present
  • The history of Finnish school system can be divided into three sections:
    • the period of Swedish rule (ca. 1200-1809)
    • the Russian era (1809-1917)
    • the period of independence (from 1917 onwards).
the fulfilment of re in finland
The fulfilment of RE in Finland
  • RE in the creed of a religious denomination will be organized if three conditions come true
    • The denomination must be a registered religious community in Finland
    • The denomination must have a curriculum (so-called National Framework Curricula) approved by the National Board of Education
    • Instruction is implemented if there is a minimum of three pupils in one municipality, who belongs to the community and who will take part in this instruction
two basic concepts
Two basic concepts
  • Confessional RE
  • RE according to pupil’s own religion
re a very current issue
RE: a very current issue
  • three examples
    • France
    • Great Britain
    • Finland
previous research
Previous research

James Michael Lee (1973)

Before 1950’s most of the attention of researchers has been directed toward teacher personality characteristics but later teacher behavior has received far less attention thanit would require

Tirri & Kallioniemi (1999)

how elementary school student teachers view religion as a school subject

RE proved to be difficult it would requirebut at the same time important subject

not consider history of Christianity or Christian doctrine very essential areas in RE

themes relevant for pupils own environment were valued most

Pupils negative attitudes to RE, the complicated relationship between faith and knowledge

Kallioniemi (2000; 2002)
    • examined adult senior secondary school students’ beliefs concerning religious and history education
    • five dimensions
      • First, strong personal experiences relevant to RE
      • Second, both positive and negative experiences of religious education
      • Third, purely religious experiences
      • Fourth, experiences related to religious authority
      • Fifth, memories of the content of RE
    • Women’s previous experiences in RE were also more approving than men’s
    • experiences of older students’ were more positive compared to younger students’ experiences
Välijärvi and Tuomi (1994)
    • Upper secondary school students (N = 5156) were asked about their experiences of their studies
    • Religion is, together with mathematics and chemistry, the least important school subject
    • especially boys recognize religion distant
    • Only 7 percentages of all students reported that they have studied personally significant issues in RE, when the proportion for instance in psychology was 42 percentages
Richard Rymarz (2001)
    • He documented the secondary school RE teachers’ experiences of RE
    • The lack of academic focus characterizes RE when it is compared with other subjects
    • The memories of the content of RE were for instance the themes of personal development, the questions of justice or Scripture and some recalled questions of sexuality
sample and method
Sample and method
  • Questionnaire
    • respondent’s background factors, like gender, age, religious commitment and profession
    • 112 statements of respondents’ own school experiences, RE teacher, what RE teacher should be like, what kind of subject is religion, the implementation of RE
  • The research data
    • carried out in the autumn of 2004. Of the 2000 questionnaires send out, 588 were returned. The respondents included 364 females (63 %) and 216 males (37 %)
  • Data analysis
    • Descriptive statistics i.e. means and standard deviations helped to characterize the research data
    • Estimations concerning respondents concepts and attitudes of the implementation of RE were analyzed using exploratory factor analysis
    • The differences between two groups were investigated using Student’s t-test
    • Differences between more than two groups were examined using one-way ANOVA with Scheffe complement
  • Next I will present the results in four parts
    • Implementation
    • Gender and implementation
    • Respondents’ religiousness and implementation
    • Age and implementation
gender and implementation
Gender and implementation
  • women (M=2.5) oppose optional RE more than men (M=2.8) (t = -3.74, p≤.000).
  • Women (M=1.5) reject school without RE stronger than men (M=1.9) (t = -4.58, p≤.000).
respondents religiousness and implementation
Respondents’ religiousness and implementation
  • There were five alternatives in the question dealing with respondents’ religiousness. Five groups were formed on the grounds of faith in Christian God
    • “Firm faith in God is the basis of my whole life.” This is the attitude of a believer. Of all there were 104 (18 %) respondents who advocated this attitude.
    • The second alternative, “I believe that God exits”, was the most prevalent, 49 percentages (N=283), and they are designated approvals, because they approve God’s existence.
    • “I don’t know if I believe in God” is a sceptical attitude. One cannot know for sure if there is God or not. The proportion of sceptics were 17 percentages (N=98).
    • “Without evidence I question the existence of God” describes clearly the attitude of an agnostic whose proportion of all were 50 (9 %).
    • The last alternative described atheism: “I don’t believe that God exists.” The proportion of them was 8 percentages (N=45).
  • main results
  • Davie (2000): decline of Christian values in Europe > who takes responsibility for RE?
  • Some remarks