February 4 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print


Preparing our young people for life, work and learning

By Tom Greene, Principal teacher of RE, St Ambrose High School, Coatbridge

The philosophy of learning that underpins Curriculum for Excellence, that is the child at the centre, has consistently been the message, which religious education in Catholic Schools has tried to convey.

In terms of learning and teaching we have always insisted that our task is to assist in the development of the whole child. This approach resonates strongly with Curriculum for Excellence in all its manifestations and is certainly in line with the requirements of Building the Curriculum 4—one of a series of guidelines from government on how education in Scotland needs to adapt to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

As a subject RE is well equipped to help our young people meet the challenges of BtC4, that is the development of skills for learning, skills for life and skills for work.

At first glance, particularly for the uninitiated, this might appear not to be the case, there may be some who think that RE has little to do with skills development preferring instead to believe that it is a subject which tries to convey beliefs or information about our own religion and about world religions. Well of course this is true. That is part of the RE curriculum in Catholic schools however, it is so much more than that—not the least of which is the need to support our youngsters in their journey in faith—and of course BtC4 with its emphasis on skills development in the areas of learning life and work, as well as the importance which is now being given to the values agenda means quite clearly, that RE in Catholic schools has a significant part to play in the development of young people.

Over time most RE departments in Catholic schools have recognised the need to work with outside agencies and partners to enhance the learning experiences of youngsters. This is now fairly well embedded in the work of RE departments around the county.

Within school RE departments traditionally work closely in terms of interdisciplinary learning with other departments such as history, geography, biology, English, home economics and so on.

Development in such as literacy H/WB communication, and Interpersonal skills are clearly accommodated in learning and teaching in RE but so too are there links to numeracy in terms of the development of skills in accessing sacred scripture as well as opportunities to work collaboratively with others and to take advantage of opportunities for personal research.

Higher order skills, the ability to think clearly to handle information to induce and deduce from this information are fundamental to growth in the study of RE as too are the skills which are thought to be salient to development in leadership.

The ability to lead, to influence, to display determination, to be able to argue coherently for one’s point of view, to be an active listener as well as a competent orator are all skills which are formulated and developed in the teaching of RE.

However, in my view there is one area in which RE is crucial and perhaps pre-eminent in terms of teaching skills for learning, skills for life and skills for work and this is in the area of values teaching.

I often say to my pupils and others who may be a bit sceptical about the worth of RE in our seemingly secular world if teaching RE is about anything it is about teaching about life and the values which are important in life. Values such as love, respect, tolerance, understanding, the importance of getting on with others, the importance of relationship, the importance of knowing that as youngsters you have potential and that life is about realising this potential as well as seeing the value in others.

If we as teachers can impart these values, these skills to our young people then surely we are a long way down the road to preparing them for life, for work and for learning.

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