A new GCSE Religious Studies syllabus focuses on issues like binge drinking and the environment with only tenuous links to the traditional subject, an academic has claimed.
Alan Smithers, Professor of Education at Buckingham University, says the subject has been turned into a “pat qualification for political correctness”.
The course includes just two optional units focusing on more traditional material, entitled ‘worship and key beliefs’ and ‘religious philosophy’.
Other units cover ‘religion and relationships’, where students are taught about homosexuality, religious attitudes to contraception and the concept and role of parenting.
The ‘religion, sport and leisure’ topic covers “religious attitudes towards the purpose use and importance of leisure; types and purposes of relaxation, e.g stress relief and the misuse of leisure time, e.g binge drinking.”
In the ‘religion and planet earth’ section of a sample exam paper, pupils are asked two give two reasons why many religious believers oppose deforestation.
Prof Smithers, who is also Director of Buckingham University’s Centre for Education and Employment Training, describes the syllabus as an example of the “politicisation of education”.
Prof Smithers said: “This does not seems to be about religion and spirituality at all. There are just a lot of tenuous connections which teach the preferred attitudes and beliefs of the moment.
“I think it comes from the desire of politicians to stamp their influence on everything. It looks as if they are turning RE in to a pat qualification for political correctness.
“How is it to benefit the students? It is not going to be a basis for the further study of RE or spirituality to a higher level. All it can do is clock up league table points for the school and keep young people occupied. One has to ask, where is the religion?”