Paxman: contestants know little about the Bible

Jeremy Paxman says the current crop of contestants on the BBC’s University Challenge don’t know much about the Bible.

Speaking to the Radio Times Mr Paxman noted contestants have replaced knowledge about the Bible and classics with facts on computing and science.

He said: “It’s interesting to see how, as years go by, they know less and less about classics and the Bible, and more and more about science and computing.”


In June a report by schools watchdog Ofsted found that English schools are failing to teach pupils about basic Christian beliefs in religious education lessons.

Revd Jan Ainsworth, the Church of England’s chief education officer, said: “Ofsted’s findings relating to the teaching of Christianity are of particular concern, suggesting that in too many schools, the faith held by the majority of people in this country is not being properly taught in an in-depth way.”

Ofsted’s report warned that the teaching of Christianity in schools is often “superficial”, and that Jesus’ parables are often used to “explore personal feelings or to decide how people should behave” without any reference to their religious significance.


Last year a survey showed knowledge of the Bible is declining with over 60 per cent of respondents saying they didn’t know anything about the prodigal son parable.

The National Biblical Literacy Survey 2009 polled more than 900 people and found 60 per cent couldn’t say anything about the Good Samaritan, while 57 per cent knew nothing about Joseph and his brothers.

However, three quarters of respondents said they owned a Bible and 31 per cent said the Bible was significant in their lives.


In December last year a leading education professor said the nation’s primary schools are watering down Britain’s Christian identity for fear of offending other cultures.

Prof Alan Smithers made his comments in light of a Sunday Telegraph survey, which showed that the Lord’s Prayer was no longer being taught in many of the nation’s primary schools.

He warned: “The country is losing its Christian identity. Many schools are not complying with the law relating to spiritual education and I think it is in urgent need of debate.”

Schools have a statutory requirement to provide a daily act of collective worship of a broadly Christian character, but 25 per cent of primary schools which responded to the survey admitted their pupils learned nothing at all about the best-known Christian prayer.

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