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Education religieuse non confessionnelle dans les écoles publiques

Non-confessional education about religion has for a long time been a compulsory subject in the Swedish public school system, named “Knowledge of Religion”. It consists of objective and neutral education about different religions, life-views and ethics.
The historical background goes back to 1842 and the establishment of a national compulsory school system for every child. Teaching in Christianity was the dominating school subject and had the function of being a preparation for confirmation. One major aim was to make children able to read the Bible and the hymnbook. The Church had control both of the school and the teaching through the local school council, which was chaired by the local priest.
The close connection between school and church persisted more than one century but weakened gradually. A non-confessional approach was first introduced in 1919 as part of a general discussion on the relationship between the dominant Evangelical Lutheran confession and minority Christian confessions. A new education plan replaced the catechism of Luther as teaching book, although the education still focused on Christianity. Not until 1951 were school teachers not belonging to the Church of Sweden allowed to teach the subject “Knowledge of Christianity”. In the 1962 the curriculum opened to teaching about other religions and life-views, and it was declared that it should be taught in an objective non-confessional way. The curriculum of 1969 changed the name of the subject to the still existing “Knowledge of Religion”.
The purpose of the compulsory school subject “Knowledge of Religion” is a combination of learning about and learning from religion. It should inform about different religions but also help the students develop existential skills. These skills are supposed to be developed through knowledge and encounters with other people’s understanding of life, their religion, tradition and worldview. The education is based on the pupils questions of life, while the religious traditions are used as different possible answers to these questions. An underlying motive is to promote tolerance and understanding of other people, and thereby contribute to integration. The classroom with several views of life and religions represented provides an arena for common discussion and reflection about religion. It makes it possible for the child to shape its own interpretation of life beyond the limits of the family tradition.

For more information, see :
- Lars Friedner, "Religion in public education - Sweden" in Gerhard Robbers (Hrsg.), Religion in Public EducationLa 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.
- Linda Vikdahl, “A lot is at stake : On the possibilities for religion-related dialog in a school in Sweden”, Religion & Education Volume 46, 2019, Issue 1, p. 81-100.

D 15 mars 2021    APer Pettersson

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