In Sri Lanka, proposals have come from the government and other agencies to scrap some of the main subjects in the school including the teaching of religion. This has affected most Catholic schools since the state patronage always backs the government schools. The teaching of religion and maintaining the religious atmosphere in Sri Lanka is part and parcel of education. In this regard, we cannot scrap it from the school curriculum. Efforts to deprive schools of Catholic patronage and provide greater choice for parents have proven divisive and slow to date (Fuller & Prema 120). The whole area of Catholic identity is undoubtedly attracting increased interest in terms of how Catholic institutions including childcare centers, schools, and tertiary institutions articulate and live that identity. However, there have been challenges especially to teachers who reflect social, religious, and cultural contexts of their times.
The debate about denominational religious education risks undermining the place of this core subject in all schools in Sri Lanka just at a moment when deeper reflection on religion, belief, ethics, and spirituality could contribute to the emergence of a community that seeks to embrace difference and is comfortable to celebrate the presence of other belief systems (Sorensen 430). There is the need for the citizens to seek religious and spiritual literacy at all time. According to the government, there is the lack of knowledge of, or interest in, the transformation of religious education. Religious education in schools contributes not only to the personal reflection and development of young people, but also enlightens respect for the beliefs of others and helps build a cohesive community. This means that to neglect religious education is to neglect the future and culture of the society.
For a very long time, the focus has been on literacy, numeracy, and science with the importance of preparing young people for the job market and for strengthening the nation's economy. In the school curriculum, teaching religion amounts to religious indoctrination or practice. However, at times, a public school curriculum may not be doctrinal or devotional (Sorensen 436). A teacher must not promote any particular religion. Additionally, he/she should not interject personal views of specific learners and must be extremely sensitive to respect, not to interfere with a learner's religious belief and practices. While it is constitutionally right for public schools to teach about religion, it is unconstitutional for these entities to observe religious holidays, promote religious beliefs, or practice religion. Teachers and parents must observe the laudable educational goals and of promoting learners knowledge and appreciating Sri Lanka's cultural and religious diversity.
The Catholic schools in Sri Lanka teach the Bible as Literature but not as a religious doctrine. The lessons are secular, religiously neutral, and objective (Sorensen 431). Furthermore, these schools teach secular values which coincide with religious values. Some of the secular values include honesty, respect, courage, kindness, and good citizenship. However, these values must not be taught as religious tenets (Sorensen 435). The fact that Catholic schools teach these values does not in any way change the desirability and lawfulness of teaching them. In this regard, it is critical to instill in learners tolerance, independent thought, self-respect, and self-reliance.
The place of religion and belief systems in the school curriculum is a sensitive issue provoking much discussion and debate in any society. Religion is a positive subject that provides learners with moral and ethical ideas. It should be in the school curriculum because it offers learners an option to believe and to be able to learn about different religions that exist. Students can also have a more logical and well-grounded perspective on faith and religious beliefs so that they can choose for themselves what they want to believe. The nature and purpose of the religious studies are neither fixed to the various aspects of the discipline nor restricted to specific contents (Sorensen 430). Those who review the curriculum has to respond to the influences, challenges, and temporal contexts in the society.
It is very difficult to understand why religious background and religious fascia is secluded in the school milieu. In Sri Lanka, this has been burgeoned by the inspiration and arbitration of the government. However, after the Catholic schools were taken over in the early 60s, interventions of the government for safekeeping and fortification of the school based on Catholic religious environment is not enough. Before daunting boundaries, regulations, and policies, it is important to concentrate on what defines the society as a whole. In a Catholic school, all these factors should be considered because they are based on the personality of the eminent teacher.
There is the need for more flexibility and freedom for learners to investigate smaller religions, cults, historical religions, and non-conventional belief systems so that they become fully informed about religion. The way religion is taught can encourage learners to be more investigative thus forcing them to ask probing questions and use skills of reasoning and evaluation to arrive at their own answer. In Sri Lanka, the Catholic school curriculum mainly tends to explain the Christian modules among the learners. The contemplative practice of the Catholic faith in the modern Catholic school curriculum entails three different kinds of instructions including catechetical theological guidelines, teaching doctrines, and explaining the Catholic faith.
The teaching of catechetical theological guidelines focuses on the beliefs and practices of the Catholic Church (Fernando et al. 18). Here, teaching and learning take place within the Catholic tradition, and the teacher speaks like someone who is a committed believer and learners profess the same faith. On the other hand, teaching doctrines find its usual context in the classroom. The content of the Catholic faith overlaps catechetical guidelines and certain doctrines. There is the need to impose religious education in the school curriculum. The deficient of the religious atmosphere in the school system may affect the hypothetical bond in the attitudes of learners. This might affect nations which are considered as righteous monarch. Teaching one religion involves comparing the present religion and its possibilities, as well as comparing the religion and its secular surrounding.
Education needs to focus on the needs of learners and the society as a whole, not just the needs of examining agencies. The incredible opportunities for learning and development in religious education in Sri Lanka are undermined by the existing government initiatives because good religious education needs to be flexible to respond to the needs and expectations of learners. Article 9 of the Constitution maintains that religious freedom needs to be practiced in every part of the country while at the same time put in place the necessary mechanisms to ensure that no religion realizes prominence over other religions. The Constitution entitles citizens the freedom of thought, conscience, and religion. However, the same Constitution accords Buddhism the foremost place and commits the government to protect it, but does not recognize it as the state religion. The school curriculum needs to do away with the unnecessary limitations that are meant to sideline certain religions because this is likely to hinder growth in all aspects. More diversity is needed to meet the changing needs of the population.
As currently instituted, the missionary schools teach the learners the importance of the Catholic itself. The learners get to understand that their Catholic identity is influenced by many factors such as the nature of the student population as well as the nature of the teachers' religious affiliations. Consequently, the teacher formation in these schools affects both Catholic identity and the faith-based programs. Tutors need to have diversified spiritual knowledge and skills (Stirrat 20). In this regard, they will be able to handle all the learners who attend the missionary schools, especially when it comes to the teaching of religious subjects. For instance, despite the missionary schools being allowed only to teach Christian Religious Education, appropriate adjustments can be made to allow even the Muslims, Buddhists, and Hindus to attend the missionary learning institutions. This will imply that the schools would recruit even the non-Catholic instructors to aid in the teaching of the various religious studies.
When the government puts in place proper measures that will ensure that everyone has a right to believe in certain doctrines or ideologies, it will not be possible for specific institutions such as the Catholic to discriminate on the basis of religion in admission policies. Resistance within the church to allow a change in school patronage has been met with great patience but also with some frustrations and anger. The society must face the new reality that there is the need to incorporate religion in the school curriculum if the community has to meet one of its objectives of togetherness.
The government needs to intercede to sufficiently safeguard the religious teachings in the missionary schools. One of the significant factors that need to be taken into consideration is that of the personality of the eminent teacher. Basing the religious education system on the distinguished characters of the teachers would go a long way towards enhancing the forms of religious studies that the school provides to the learners in the nation. The personality of the spiritual teachers plays an integral role in ensuring that religion and its contexts improve the moral values and the behaviors of the learners in schools. The modifications with regards to the personality of a spiritual teacher need to be applied to other teachers irrespective of whether they teach Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, or Buddhism.
In as much as the Sunday schools have the obligation of teaching religion, the schools still need to show the subject to the learners. This will enable learners who do not attend Sunday schools to get the chance to learn about religion. The process of outlawing tuition classes on Sundays is founded on the need to enable as many students as possible to attend the Sunday schools. The schools need to teach the religious values to augment what the Sunday schools are doing. Religious education does not need to be detached from the learning institutions, but it should preferably be maintained whereas the missionary schools need to come up with the necessary regulations and directions that would enhance how the religious studies is taught. It is critical to lay the foundation to subsist religious values in the school ambiance. Modern-day tuition teacher may contribute to obstructing the possibility of declaring Sunday a tuition-free day. Teachers who are allied to different forms of religion in relation to the religious ambiance may divert from the educational sector especially if the religious environs deviate from the school curriculum. This calls for the evaluation of the general values, ethics, and morals of the society.
It is the role of teachers and other stakeholders in the education sector to investigate the types of values taught in Catholic schools. It is evident that in Sri Lanka, schools and teachers face more challenges than ever before when it comes to bringing up citizens with good moral values. In the post-independence era, several superficial changes took place. These included the change of the primary mediu...
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