11 Dec Alternative GCSE idea…
Given the extreme shortage of time, it has been impossible to arrange a meeting for teachers of GCSE Religious Studies or to work extensively with colleagues on an alternative proposal as we have with the A Level proposal. Nevertheless, colleagues have serious concerns about the GCSE proposal, which they have voiced to us, and we would like to do something to help shape thinking as we all respond to the DfE proposal.
The following is my attempt to address the DfE priorities which are, again, to increase rigour and relevance to the study of religion, to enhance progression from KS3 and to A Level and university, to reduce options and routes through the subject, cutting costs and making the qualifications easier to standardize.
Clearly, this will not meet with everyone’s approval – but ask yourself, is this more integrated, balanced approach better than what the DfE is currently proposing? Would it support you in recruiting and retaining students and offering the opportunity of meaningful RE to a decent proportion post-14?
You might guess that I have been influenced by the old OCR paper “Christian Perspectives on World Issues” – which similarly specified some texts to study to inform discussion of the issues, and similarly covered some aspects of religious belief and practices. I have amplified this and applied to other religions – hence Jewish perspectives, Islamic perspectives etc. would be integrated with a study of those religions. Non-religious world views are specified in every topic which allows for that. I am not a fan of pushing humanism into the mold of a religion and trying to consider humanist practices, texts, sources of authority etc – but it is VITAL that an atheistic framework is considered thoroughly, including how its perspectives are similar and different from religious perspectives in relation to, for example, ultimate reality, world and human origins, nature and purpose of human life, sanctity of life etc.
For what it is worth, I would really like to teach this alternative! I think it would be engaging, challenging and would excite a good number of students, although it is definitely not traditional “philosophy and ethics” I admit, the proportion of marks, numbers of topics etc. probably need more thought.
ALTERNATIVE GCSE SUBJECT CONTENT PROPOSAL
- GCSE subject content sets out the knowledge, understanding and skills common to all GCSE specifications in a given subject. It provides the framework within which awarding organisations create the detail of their specifications, so ensuring progression from the Key Stage 3 curriculum and the possibilities for progression to GCE A level.
- By setting out the range of subject content and areas of study for GCSE specifications in religious studies, the subject content is consistent with the requirements for the statutory provision for religious education in current legislation as it applies to different types of school.
Subject aims and learning outcomes
- GCSE specifications in religious studies should:
- develop students’ knowledge and understanding of religions and non-religious beliefs
- develop students’ knowledge and understanding of religious beliefs, teachings, and sources of wisdom and authority, including through their reading of key religious texts, other texts, and scriptures of the religions they are studying
- develop students’ ability to construct well-argued, well-informed, balanced and structured written arguments, demonstrating their depth and breadth of understanding of the subject
- provide opportunities for students to engage with questions of belief, value, meaning, purpose, truth, and their impact on human life
- challenge students to reflect on and develop their own values, beliefs and attitudes in the light of what they have learnt and contribute to their preparation for adult life in a pluralistic society and global community
- GCSE specifications in religious studies must require students to:
- demonstrate knowledge and understanding of two religions
- demonstrate knowledge and understanding of key sources of wisdom and authority including texts which support contemporary religious faith
- understand the impact of religion on individuals, communities and societies
- understand significant common and divergent views between and within religions and beliefs
- apply knowledge and understanding in order to analyse questions related to religious beliefs and values
- construct well-informed and balanced arguments on matters concerned with religious beliefs and values set out in the subject content below Programme of Study
- Specifications must include…
- Study of religion 1: the origins and history, beliefs and teachings, sources of wisdom and authority, practices and ethical teachings, forms of authority, ways of life and relationship with a non-religious world-view and other religions of one of the major world religions (making up 50% of the overall qualification weighting)
- Study of religion 2: the origins and history, beliefs and teachings, sources of wisdom and authority, practices and ethical teachings, forms of authority, ways of life and relationship with a non-religious world-view and other religions of another of the major world religions (making up 50% of the overall qualification weighting)
- Throughout all of the programmes of study, specifications should include the study of common and divergent views within traditions in the way beliefs and teachings are understood and expressed.
- Awarding organisations can develop, combine or cross reference the required content in any way appropriate to the specification, as long as the overall criteria are met.
- The content outlined below sets out the requirements for the study of religions; two separate religions must be studied according to the requirements for full course and for short course.
- Where a religion is studied from the perspective of one group or denomination the second option chosen must be from another principal religion (e.g Christianity and Catholic Christianity could not be combined). Where a group or denomination is studied it must be studied in the context of the wider religion to which it belongs.
- The study of religion topics on which specifications must draw, in line with the programme of study set out above, are:
a. origins and history: context, consideration of the life, work and teaching of the founder(s) of the religion. Development of the religion over time; consideration of the key divisions within the religious tradition and the reasons for them. Dialogue within and between religions and non-religious beliefs; how those with religious and non-religious beliefs respond to critiques of their beliefs including the study of a range of attitudes towards those with different religious views – inclusivist, exclusivist and pluralist approaches. Study of two significant, influential leaders’ contribution to the development of the religion.
b. sources of wisdom and authority: the origins, authorship, nature, history and treatment of key religious texts or scriptures. Other sources of authority, such as prophets, saints or revelations, religious leaders or bodies; the relationship between these sources of authority and their relative statuses, including consideration of diversity within the tradition. Detailed study of a specified, appropriate extended extract from a holy text including consideration of its key themes, relevance to beliefs about God and moral behaviour and the existence of different readings or interpretations of key passages. In particular, students will be understand
- the significance, importance and impact of the text for individuals, communities and societies
- how varied interpretations of the meaning of such texts may give rise to diversity within traditions
- how far communities give authority to such texts especially in relation to other sources of contemporary authority
c. beliefs and teachings: beliefs about God, gods or ultimate reality and reasons believers have for believing in God, gods or ultimate reality including rational arguments, religious experience(s), revelations, texts and other forms of authority. Two non-religious perspectives on the reasons people have for believing in God, gods or ultimate reality. Religious views of the world, including their relationship to non-religious scientific views; beliefs about death and an afterlife; explanations of the origins of the universe. The role of communities of faith, key moral principles and beliefs about the meanings and purposes of human life. How these beliefs and teachings relate to holy texts and other forms of revelation and/or authority.
d. practices: the application of beliefs and teachings to the lives of modern believers including the study of places and forms of worship (as appropriate to each religion) and how these reflect beliefs about God or key moral principles. How prayer or meditation is used, including liturgy, fasting and key pilgrimages if appropriate, and how these practices reflect beliefs about God, gods or ultimate reality or key moral principles. Religious teaching about relationships and families, sex, marriage and divorce, roles of men and women, parents and children, adoption, surrogacy, right to a child and fertility treatments, and care of elders – how these reflect beliefs about God, gods or ultimate reality and relate to key moral principles and religious texts. How the existence of different readings or interpretations of text has created diversity within the tradition in terms of managing relationships and families. How religious practices in terms of relationships and families may be similar and different from non-religious practices and reasons for this.
e. forms of expression and ways of life: the impact of beliefs on individuals, communities and societies through ways of life and art forms such as drama, dance, literature, architecture and music inspired by religions and belief, how these forms of expression reflect beliefs about God, gods or ultimate reality or key moral principles and the role of these art forms in worship or ritual and in the everyday lives of believers.
f. moral teaching and contemporary moral challenges: the significance, importance and impact of religious texts as a source for religious law making and codes for living in the 21st century. Alternative approaches to moral decision making from within the tradition, how these relate to and compare with textually-based approaches and with two non-religious approaches to decision making. Students should explore all the different religious and non-religious ways of making decisions, comparing and contrasting the guidance these approaches offer and considering the existence of official religious teaching(s) where appropriate. At least three major and distinct contemporary moral issues should be covered from the list below (14) two in the case of short-course qualifications. In particular, students should understand the existence of diversity within religions, and within religious groups, and the varied reasons for this, including (but not limited to) different readings or interpretations of texts, different sources of authority and the role of individual conscience.
11. Specifications should prescribe the study of clearly referenced material in appropriate English translation from the particular religion selected to support b. A single extended extract is preferred, though several shorter extracts from one or two texts may be specified where this is necessary to achieve the objectives set out above. Taken as a whole, the material must be sufficient and appropriate to enable the themes to be explored thoroughly, for different perspectives to be explored and for the assessment objectives to be met.
12. Decisions about which text(s) to specify must take account of the level of challenge posed by the comprehension of the material and the proportion of study time available for the detailed textual study.
13. In addition, all specifications must require students to demonstrate knowledge and understanding that:
- religious traditions in Great Britain are diverse and include the following religions: Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism and Sikhism, as well as other religions and non-religious beliefs
- the fact that religious traditions of Great Britain are, in the main, Christian
14. Contemporary Moral Challenges (three should be studied for full-course GCSE, two for short-course)
- religion, peace and conflict; religious teaching about violence, war, holy war, pacifism and terrorism. Religious teaching about peace and sustaining it. The extent to which religious teaching is compatible with just war theory and religious attitudes to the use of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, suicide bombers, mines and IEDs in war and the treatment of civilians caught up in conflict, refugees and prisoners of war. The role of the religion and belief in 21st century conflict and peace making; the concepts of justice, forgiveness and reconciliation, a key religious leader and their contribution to understanding of one or more of those concepts.
- religion, crime and punishment; religious teaching about free-will and moral responsibility, redemption and atonement. Religious teaching about the law and the relationship between religious laws and national laws. Causes of crime, aims of punishment, the concepts of forgiveness, retribution, deterrence, reformation; treatment of criminals; good, evil and suffering. A key religious leader and their contribution to understanding of one or more of these concepts or issues.
- religion, human rights and social justice; Religious teaching about equality, justice and freedom of religion or belief. The concepts of prejudice, discrimination, equality, justice, fairness, positive discrimination, non-violent direct action, civil disobedience. Attitudes to prejudice and discrimination in religion and belief and in relation to race, gender, age and ability; human rights; poverty and financial inequality, including the existence of and reasons for diversity within and between religious attitudes. A key religious leader and their contribution to understanding of one or more of these concepts or issues.
- religion and the end of life; religious teaching about the sanctity of life and personhood. Teachings about and attitudes to abortion, suicide, assisted dying, euthanasia and capital punishment. The existence of and reasons for diversity within and between religious attitudes. The concepts of conception, independence, viability, person, soul, interests, double-effect, vindication, deterrence, judicial murder. A key religious leader and their contribution to understanding of one or more of these concepts or issues.
- religion and the environment; religious teaching about human beings’ relationship with animals and the natural world and about care for animals and the natural environment. The existence of diversity in religious attitudes and behaviour in relation to animals, the environment and resources and reasons for this diversity, including different readings/interpretations of texts. The concepts of conservation, recycling, reuse, pollution, depletion of natural resources, extinction, biodiversity, development and the precautionary principle. A key religious leader and their contribution to understanding of one or more of these concepts or issues.
- religion, business and finance; religious teaching about lending and borrowing money and interest charges as well as about fair conduct in business, the use and abuse of natural resources, world trade and globalization. The existence of diversity in religious attitudes and behaviour and the possible reasons for this, including different readings/interpretations of texts. The concepts of limited liability, shareholders, negligence, corporate liability, deregulation, free market and trade justice as well as cooperatives, employee-owned businesses and philanthropy. A key religious leader or movement and their contribution to understanding of one or more of these concepts or issues.
Religious studies short course
15. The content for GCSE religious studies short courses will be half the content of the GCSE full course. All short-course specifications must offer the opportunity to study two religions in relation to to areas a, c and f of the full course specification, with the requirement to study two, not three contemporary moral challenges from the list at 14 in f.
Assuming 125 hours teaching per year, 125 hours in total for short-course, this would allow 15.5 hours per religion per topic (around 8 weeks teaching) in Year 10, culminating in the Philosophical “Beliefs and Teachings” and the Ethical “Practices” topics. The whole of Year 11 could then be used to explore Moral Teaching & Contemporary Challenges in depth, relating it back to all aspects of what was studied in Year 10, with a Full Course unit on forms of expression which students should really enjoy and might even take the form of an investigation or project.
This course would really lend itself to being taught over 3 years as well, though not to “RS in an hour a week” by any stretch of the imagination.
|Short & Full Course||Full Course|
|Autumn||Origins & History (1)||Sources of wisdom & authority (1)|
|Winter||Origins & History (2)||Sources of wisdom & authority (2)|
|Spring||Beliefs & Teachings (1)||Practices (1)|
|Summer||Beliefs & Teachings (2)||Practices (2)|
|Autumn/ Winter||Moral Teaching and Contemporary Challenges (1)||Forms of expression and ways of life (1+2)|
|Spring / Summer||Moral Teaching and Contemporary Challenges (2)||Moral Teaching and Contemporary Challenges (1+2) plus revision/extension of textual studies|
Let me know what you think by leaving a comment below!