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Non-confessional religious education in public schools

Religious education in the Swedish public school system is compulsory and since a long time non-confessional and consists mostly of education about different religions and life-views. A non-confessional, although still Christian, approach was introduced in 1919 as part of a general discussion on the relationship between the dominant Evangelical Lutheran confession and other minority Christian confessions. In the 1960s the Christian teaching was changed into an objective and neutral education about different religions and life-views and the subject was named “Knowledge of Religion”. The curriculum of religious education in school has mainly been the same ever since.
The purpose of the school subject “Knowledge of Religion” is a combination of the learning about and learning from religion. It should inform about different religions but also help the students develop existential skills according to the National Curriculum on religion for the compulsory school. These skills are supposed to be developed through encounters with other people’s understanding of what life is all about, their religions, traditions and world views. The education takes stand in the essential life-questions of the pupils, while the religious traditions are used as different possible answers to these questions.
The underlying motive for this kind of religious education in school is “the Swedish logic of integration”. It has been considered important to have a common arena for discussion and reflection about religion where everybody can meet. Another motive is to make it possible for the child to shape its own interpretation of life, including beyond the limits of its family tradition. There is a considerable agreement about the life-interpretation-goal among the researchers and teacher trainers writing in the field.

For more information, see:
- Lars Friedner, "Religion in public education - Sweden" in Gerhard Robbers (Hrsg.), Religion in Public Education – La religion dans l’éducation publique, European Consortium for Church and State Research, Trier, 2011, 493-502.
- Jenny Berglund, "Swedish religion education: Objective but Marinated in Lutheran Protestantism?", Temenos 49/2, 2013.

D 15 May 2014    APer Pettersson

CNRS Unistra Dres Gsrl

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