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Loi de 2012 sur l’enseignement obligatoire de la religion à l’école

In Russia, the secularity of state education is not a constitutional principle, but a legislative norm introduced by Law no. 3266-1 of 10 July 1992 on education. Teaching is secular in state and local schools. The law does not prohibit religious education ; on the contrary, it is considered as a consequence of the principle of secularity in teaching. However, a distinction is made between religious education, synonymous with catechesis and possibly seeking to convert pupils, and “neutral” instruction, which provides knowledge on the history, doctrine or the culture of a particular faith, without depicting it as “the only true religion” or teaching religious practice and worship. This kind of religious education is compatible with the principle of secularity. It can be compared to courses in “knowledge or understanding of religion as a human phenomenon” delivered in French schools.

The notion of the “neutral” teaching of religion has stimulated discussions about the possibility that such teaching can indeed be neutral and free from any religious or atheist propaganda. After major debates in society, the government has proposed courses on the “foundations of religious culture”, divided into six versions for pupils to choose from : the foundations of Orthodox, Muslim, Jewish and Buddhist cultures, of “the great religions in the world” and of secular ethics.
This course was initially introduced in certain regions on an experimental basis.

On 29 December 2012, the new Law no. 273-FZ on education in the Russian Federation repealed the Law of 1992. Article 87 of this law does not use the term “teaching of religion”, but a more complex expression : “teaching of knowledge about the foundations of spiritual and moral culture of the peoples of the Russian Federation, of the ethical principles and historical and cultural traditions of religions in the world”. In the same article, the law confirms the rights of parents of schoolchildren to choose for their children one of the six options on offer. The course curricula must be checked beforehand by the central organisations concerned, based on their historical and cultural traditions and doctrines.
By order of the Russian Government no. 84-р of 28 January 2012, the course on “the foundations of religious cultures and secular ethics” is integrated within the compulsory part of the school teaching curriculum as from the fourth year of primary school (in Russia, school starts at year one for the youngest) for all schools in Russia with effect from the 2012-2013 school year.

According to the report by the Ministry of Education and Science, this new course involved 1,393,666 pupils during the school year 2013-2014. They are divided up as follows :
“Foundations of secular ethics” - 637,412 pupils (45.8%) ;
“Foundations of Orthodox culture” - 436,706 pupils (31.2%) ;
"Foundations of the world’s great religions" - 262,473 pupils (18.8%) ;
“Foundations of Muslim culture” - 51,221 pupils (3.7%) ;
“Foundations of Buddhist culture” - 5,231 pupils (0.4%) ;
“Foundations of Jewish culture” - 161 pupils (0.1%) ;

August 2014

D 4 septembre 2014    AMikhaïl Chakhov

CNRS Unistra Dres Gsrl

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