Doc. 10673

19 September 2005

Education and religion

Report

Committee on Culture, Science and Education

Rapporteur: André Schneider, France, Group of the European People’s Party

Summary

The Parliamentary Assembly reaffirms that each person’s religion, including the option of having no religion, is a strictly personal matter. However, many crisis situations are deeply rooted in cultural and religious tensions. Knowledge of religions is an integral part of knowledge of the history of mankind and civilisations. It is altogether distinct from belief in a specific religion and its observance.

A good general knowledge of religions is therefore essential for a sense of tolerance in society and the exercise of democratic citizenship. Education should provide the tools for combating ignorance, stereotypes and misunderstanding of religions.

The Assembly recommends that the Committee of Ministers examine the possible approaches to teaching about religions at primary and secondary levels, for example through basic modules which would be adapted to the various educational systems, promote initial and in-service teacher training in religious studies and envisage setting up a European teacher training institute for the comparative study of religions.

I.       Draft recommendation

1.       The Parliamentary Assembly forcefully reaffirms that each person’s religion, including the option of having no religion, is a strictly personal matter. However, this is not inconsistent with the view that a good general knowledge of religions, and as a result a sense of tolerance, are essential to the exercise of democratic citizenship.

2.       In its Recommendation 1396 (1999) on religion and democracy, the Assembly asserted: “There is a religious aspect to many of the problems that contemporary society faces, such as intolerant fundamentalist movements and terrorist acts, racism and xenophobia, and ethnic conflicts”.

3.       Knowledge of religions is dying out in many families. More and more young people lack the necessary bearings fully to apprehend the societies in which they move and others with which they are confronted.

4.       The media – printed and audiovisual – can have a highly positive informative role. Some, however, especially among those aimed at the wider public, very often display a regrettable ignorance of religions, as shown for instance by the frequent unwarranted parallels drawn between Islam and certain fundamentalist and radical movements.

5.       Politics and religion should be kept apart. However, democracy and religion should not be incompatible. In fact they should be valid partners. By tackling societal problems, the public authorities can eliminate many of the situations which can lead to religious extremism.

6.       Education is essential for combating ignorance, stereotypes and misunderstanding of religions. Governments should also do more to guarantee freedom of conscience and religious expression, to foster education on religions, to encourage dialogue with and between religions and to promote the cultural and social expression of religions.

7.       School is a major component of education, of forming a critical spirit in future citizens and of intercultural dialogue. It lays the foundations for tolerant behaviour. By teaching children the history and philosophy of the main religions with restraint and objectivity and with respect for the values of the European Convention on Human Rights, it will effectively combat fanaticism. Understanding the history of political conflicts in the name of religion is essential.

8.       Knowledge of religions is an integral part of knowledge of the history of mankind and civilisations. It is altogether distinct from belief in a specific religion and its observance. Even countries where one religion plainly predominates should teach about the origins of all religions rather than favour a single one or encourage proselytising.

9.       In Europe, there are various concurrent situations. Education systems generally – and especially the State schools in so-called secular countries – are not devoting enough resources to teaching about religions, or – in countries where there is a state religion and in denominational schools – are focusing on only one religion. Some countries have prohibited the carrying or wearing of religious symbols in schools.

10.       Unfortunately, all over Europe there is a shortage of teachers qualified to give comparative instruction in the different religions, so a European teacher training institute for that needs to be set up (at least for teacher trainers).

11.       The Council of Europe assigns a key role to education in the construction of a democratic society,but study of religions in schools has not yet received special attention.

12.       The Assembly observes moreover that the three monotheistic religions of the Book have common origins (Abraham) and share many values with other religions and that the values upheld by the Council of Europe stem from these values.

13.       Accordingly, the Assembly recommends that the Committee of Ministers:

13.1.       examine the possible approaches to teaching about religions at primary and secondary levels, for example through basic modules which would subsequently be adapted to the various educational systems;

13.2.       promote initial and in-service teacher training in religious studies respecting the principles set out in the previous paragraphs;

13.3.       envisage setting up a European teacher training institute for the comparative study of religions.

14.       The Assembly also recommends that the Committee of Ministers encourage the governments of member states to ensure that religious studies are taught at the primary and secondary levels of State education, on the basis of the following criteria in particular:

14.1.       the aim of this education should be to make pupils discover the religions practiced in their own and neighbouring countries, to make them perceive that everyone has the same right to believe that their religion is the “true faith” and that other people are not rendered any different as human beings by having a different religion or not having a religion at all;

14.2.       it should include, with complete impartiality, the history of the main religions, as well as the option of having no religion;

14.3.       it should provide young people with educational tools that enable them to be quite secure in approaching supporters of a fanatical religious practice;

14.4.       it must not overstep the borderline between the realms of culture and worship, even where a country with a State religion is concerned. It is not a matter of instilling a faith but of making young people understand why religions are the sources of faith for millions;

14.5.       teachers on religions need to have specific training. They should be teachers of a cultural or literary discipline. However, specialists in another discipline could be made responsible for this education;

14.6. the State should look after teacher training and lay down the syllabuses which should be adapted to each country’s peculiarities and to the pupils’ ages.

II.        Preliminary draft report

by Mr André Schneider

A.       Introduction

B.       Earlier committee activities

Reporting committee: Committee on Culture, Science and Education

Reference to committee: Doc. 9995, Reference No 2903 of 25 November 2003

Draft recommendation unanimously adopted by the committee on 6 September 2005

Members of the Committee: Mr Jacques Legendre (Chairman), Baroness Hooper, Mr Josef Jařab, Mr Wolfgang Wodarg, (Vice-Chairpersons), Mr Hans Ager, Mr Toomas Alatalu, Mr Gaqo Apostoli, Emerenzio Barbieri, Mr Rony Bargetze, Mrs Marie-Louise Bemelmans-Videc, Mr Radu-Mircea Berceanu, Mr Levan Berdzenishvili, Mr Božidar Bojović Mrs Anne Brasseur, Mr Osman Coşkunoğlu, Mr Vlad Cubreacov, Mrs Maria Damanaki, Mr Joseph Debono Grech, Mr Ferdinand Devinsky, Mrs Kaarina Dromberg, Mrs Anke Eymer, Mr Relu Fenechiu, Mrs Blanca Fernández-Capel, Mrs Maria Emelina Fernández-Soriano, Mr José Freire Antunes, Mrs Siv Frieđleifsdóttir, Mr Piotr Gadzinowski, Mr Ian Gibson, Mr Eamon Gilmore, Mr Stefan Glǎvan, Mr Luc Goutry, Mr Vladimir Grachev, Mr Andreas Gross, Mrs Azra Hadžiahmetović, Mr Jean-Pol Henry, Mr Rafael Huseynov, Mr Raffaele Iannuzzi, Mrs Halide İncekara, Mr Igor Ivanovski, Mr Shavarsh Kocharyan, Mr József Kozma, Jean-Pierre Kucheida, Mr Guy Lengagne, Mr Peter Letzgus, Mrs Christine Lucyga, Mrs Jagoda Majska-Martincevic, Mr Gennaro Malgieri, Mr Bernard Marquet, Mrs Giovanna Melandri, Mr Ivan Melnikov, Mr Loutvi Mestan, Mrs Milena Milotinova, Mrs Fausta Morganti, Mrs Kim Mortensen, Mrs Christine Muttonen, Mrs Miroslava Nĕmcová, Mr Edward O’Hara (Alternate: Mr Robert Walter), Mr Guilherme de Oliveira Martins, Mrs Elsa Papadimitriou, Mrs Antigoni Pericleous Papadopoulos, Mrs Majda Potrata, Mr Lluis Maria de Puig, Mr Anatoliy Rakhansky, Mr Johannes Randegger, Mr Zoltán Rockenbauer, Mrs Anta Rugāte, Lord Russell-Johnston, Mr Volodymyr Rybak, Mr Pär-Axel Sahlberg, Mr André Schneider, Mr Vitaliy Shybko, Mrs Elsa Skarbřvik, Mr Andrey Skoch (Alternate: Mr Anatoliy Korobeynikov), Mr Jerzy Smorawiński, Mr Ninoslav Stojadinović, Mr Valeriy Sudarenkov, Mr Aleksander Szczygło, Mr Mehmet Tekelioğlu, Mr Ed van Thijn, Mr Vagif Vakilov, Mrs Majléne Westerlund Panke, Mr Emanuelis Zingeris, N….

NB. The names of those present at the meeting are printed in bold

Head of Secretariat: Mr Christopher Grayson

Committee secretariat: Mr Joăo Ary, Mr Rüdiger Dossow, Mr Chemavon Chahbazian


1 With an exception for the departments of Bas-Rhin, Haut-Rhin and Moselle where the Concordat still applies.