According to a report by the London School of Economics, Communities will best learn to live peacefully together if they grow up and learn together, respecting each other’s differences. Separation along religious lines they say invites division, racism and bigotry to develop, everything the government and every think tank is trying to circumvent. YZ Patel looks in to the issue of faith schools in multi-cultural Britain
A question often posed to me is ‘what is your perspective on faith schools?’ Do you think they are of a benefit to society or a hindrance? A force for good or otherwise? These questions brought about as two new faith schools have been proposed in Lancashire in the last few weeks.
Topically the doctrine in question is the one of submission and with everything that surrounds it, the issue was going to be a hot potato dichotomising the adherents and non followers alike.
The view to keep education secular that is free of any form of religion is that it stops ‘social sorting’ of children along lines of class, ability and religion. Those in favour of no religious involvement insist that in order to achieve a non segregated cohesive and integrated society the divisive component of religion has to be removed.
According to a report by the London School of Economics, Communities will best learn to live peacefully together if they grow up and learn together, respecting each other’s differences. Separation along religious lines they say invites division, racism and bigotry to develop, everything the government and every think tank is trying to circumvent.
Faith schools the secularists say is also a fertile breeding ground for discrimination as they are permitted to use religious criteria for their admissions policy. We often hear of non practising Catholics or Anglicans signing up to their local religious establishment just to get their children into their school of choice.
These policies the anti brigade say is to the detriment of local children who may be of the wrong religion or paying the price for their parents lack of belief. They believe the role of religion has no place in modern day society and is antiquated. Secularists believe all the ideals of all pupils and their families should be respected however no place of education should seek to promote or instil such dogma.
This being the total polar opposite to the view held by those in favour of faith schools that it is religion that allows this to happen. It is faith that allows respect and all the values secularists claim it doesn’t.
Those in favour of faith schools hold the strongly held belief that they achieve high standards of attainment because of their religious ethos. It is the values held within their belief system that allows pupils to reach their potential and become valuable members of society. Those fiercely in favour of religion within education are of the unyielding mindset that the two cannot be separated and are inextricably linked.
The Anglican faith has always maintained that its role in the provision of education has always been focused on social responsibility and enriching the community opposed to the advancement of the doctrine. They maintain they are inclusive and provide to pupils of all faiths and none.
According to Tina Beattie a Professor of Catholic studies she believes ‘Good faith schools can teach students to think, to reason and to engage critically with a range of different ideas and beliefs, including their own’ she is of the opinion that faith gives the framework for pupils to do this and is a integral part. Faith schools dispel bigotry and hatred she believes.
The view of other faiths is also in keeping with this viewpoint that religion within education is a force for good. The debate about religion being a contributory factor in breeding extremism is a falsehood and a red herring they claim. A convenient stick for those against Islamic faith schools to beat them with even though no evidence has been forthcoming to corroborate this.
The evidence often showed is those educated within these schools often are at the top of OFSTED performance tables negating the secular view that religion is in someway a obstruction to attainment.
The major problem the government has it is unable to stop any faith school. If it allows the promotion of one faith then it has to allow the same of other faiths as this is the embodiment of a tolerant and democratic society. These what we keep getting told are what true ‘British Values’ are, and encouraging the escalation of one faith over another would be a contravention of these said values.
Unlike the other proponent of free speech and equality across the channel there is no separation between the state and religion here, therefore to allow one must mean to allow others, and in a democratic society it is the free will of the inhabitants to make informed choices to where they wish to send their children to be educated.
If one parent is inclined to one of a faith environment then that is their preference, if they believe that is the best learning medium for their child. If one believes that religion should play no part in education then they have a alternative also.
The case by the minorities is they are quite willing to go to other faith schools, this does not deter them therefore if you are invoking the integration argument there should be no reason why it should stop anybody else from participating in their schools.
A more important point not to get lost in this quagmire and subterfuge of secularism and faith in education is the standard of education itself. Parents’ main issue is the standard of education that their children are going to receive that is of paramount importance when they are choosing a school and then everything else.
They are not going to send their children to any school if that standard is not met, so the government has to implement measures and practices that all schools standards are raised so the pupils are getting the best chance to progress both as members of society economically and socially and the other arguments should not detract from this.
The standard of education and raising those thresholds should be at the pinnacle of every parents’ and the governments’ priorities.
What comes out in the end however is informed decisions can be made by all parents of all faiths or no faiths and the most important element is there is no compulsion. In a free society everybody is free to choose what they believe is best for them and that should not be taken away.