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Religious Catholic Education Policy and Why It is Important

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Historical Overview

The school that I have chosen is St Dominic’s Priory which is located in Miramar, Port Elizabeth. The reasoning for me choosing this school is because of my knowledge of the school as I attended this school for many years.

St Dominic’s Priory began its long history in 1867 when the six founders who were sisters left Dublin, Ireland and travelled to Port Elizabeth to form the Holy Rosary Convent which was a high school.

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The first Marist Brothers College in the Eastern Cape was founded in 1869 in Port Elizabeth, from where they opened a boarding school, Our Lady of Good Hope, in Uitenhage in 1884. In 1954, the high school, St Patrick’s, moved from Bird Street to the new campus in the rural municipality of Walmer where they were joined by the pupils from the Uitenhage school, which closed. The junior school relocated from Bird Street to St Patrick’s at the end of 1966.

Trinity High School in Port Elizabeth was formed in 1983 from the amalgamation of Holy Rosary Convent, St Dominic’s Priory School, founded on these premises in 1900, and St Patrick’s Marist Brothers College, Walmer. Trinity High School made use of the Holy Rosary Convent campus in Bird Street, Central, Port Elizabeth. The junior school of all three schools – boys and girls – was named St Dominic’s Priory Junior School and used the campus of our present school.

In 2000, Trinity High School closed. The campus in Bird Street, Central (the old Holy Rosary Convent) was sold and the school relocated to the current campus where the staff, boys and girls of Trinity joined the junior school under one Board of Governors to form St Dominic’s Priory School. The Junior School and High School were administered separately with their own school management structures until January of 2013 when they were amalgamated under a single management and administration.

St Dominic’s Priory exists today as a co-ed Catholic school which has a pre-school, a foundation phase, intermediate phase and high school. To celebrate the history of how St Dominic’s Priory came to be, they incorporated the schools which were used to create St Dominic’s Priory in the school house names: Marcellin (for the founder of the Marist Brothers), Rosary (for the Holy Rosary Convent) and Trinity (for Trinity High School which was created by merging Holy Rosary Convent, Marist Brothers College and Priory High). (Priory.co.za, 2019)

Factors Governing Policy

The factors governing this policy include inclusivity which is brought up because of the fact that even though one is in a religious school does not mean that they are not allowed to learn, at their place of education, what other religions are practised around the world and even in their community. This would allow people going to that school that are not the same religion to not be ashamed of the dominant religion of that school as it is a right to have the freedom to exercise any religion privately or publicly.

Another factor is that everyone should be aware of the different religions that are practised in the world as everyone should have the knowledge of other religions instead of just being forced to learn about their own religion. This could help people to understand people of other religions so that people do not only see the bad parts of certain religions when shown on the internet or on the news. This will also help people to realise that there are more religions out there if they do not feel as if they fit into their own religion that if they would like to still practise a religion that they could join a different religion instead of being forced to practise their own.

It allows people to learn about history better such as World War II with Judaism and how it affected the religion. It would allow people to gain insight to how much religion actually affects the world around them instead of them thinking religion is not as important as people make to out to be.

The Policy

This policy will cover the different aspects of Religion Education and Religious Observances. This policy should be put in-place in order to embrace the diversity in the religions found in South Africa.

Anyone has the right to create private schools which are able to choose a specific religion as long as there is no discrimination of any type, similarly Public Schools have the right to specify a religious ethos and figure, in both types of schools they would have to maintain the standard curriculum with regards to religion education.

Religious Studies

Religious studies is a programme that should be understood by the age group which it is being taught to and should teach them about what religion is, the many different types of religions, and the religious diversity in South Africa and the world.

Religion Education should be taught as it helps identify the common values that all religions promote, such as the human search for meaning and the ethic of service to others, this will also help with expanding the understanding of the different religions to help increase tolerance and reduce prejudice. Religion Education helps contribute to promotion social justice, and respect for the environment.

Unlike an approach to religious education which focuses on one specific religion and unlike an approach which focuses on a specific set of religions, the best approach to the studying Religion Education should not promote any particular religion. This programme helps learn about all religions and religion as a whole in order to help incorporate the multiple values that the many religions promote.

Religious Observances

A religious observances are when the school will/may partake in religious services or when the school adds things used/celebrated by the religion into the daily schedule or even the religious holidays.

There are various types of religious observances such as: a religious service on a day of worship or rest; a voluntary gathering where pupils and/or teachers of a specific religion gather during a school break; and observances which may be ongoing such as dress code and available prayer times and diets, which must be respected and accommodated in a manner agreed upon by the school and the relevant faith authorities.

Appropriate acknowledgement in the multi-religious nature of a school community may include the following: Separating learners according to religion, when the observances are not inclusive in order for people of other religions to say their prayers when using a dominant prayer during assemblies. Rotating the different religions in the school by using selected readings from different religious books and by using an all-inclusive prayer. Where there comes a time and the pupils need to be separated, the school must consider peer pressure on the children, and its negative influence on children wanting to be seen as “different”.

Conclusion

The policy to enforce religious studies would only help benefit the learners of a school as it will help to educate them on the different religions, their own religion and it will show the impact of religion around them. It would also create a safe space to ask questions about the different religions and help to reduce the amount of prejudice and stereotyping found when it comes to religion. Many people these days were not taught about the different religions at school and now follow and agree with the stereotypes of religions which are brought to account on the news. This subject would also help with people of different religions to not feel as different as people would now know about their religion and would be included in the schools by means of celebrating their religious holidays.

Definitions

Religion – The belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods. (Oxford Dictionaries | English, n.d.)

Religious education – Education in religious matters; (in later use also) religion taught as a school subject. (Oxford Dictionaries | English, n.d.)

Religious Observances – Activities and behaviours which help to acknowledge and express the views and beliefs of a particular religion. (Gov.za, n.d.)

Religious Studies – The study of religion or religions as an academic discipline. (Oxford Dictionaries | English, n.d.)

Annexures

Chidester states that Religious Education relies on the division of state and religious bodies and parents. It helps to promote civic rights and responisbilites instead of being a religions function. Religious Education contributes to education by helping learners develop their knowledge, values and skills needed to help create a multi-religious society where all religions co-exist. The learners will see that they are part of a larger community and will help them to learn how to create harmony with other people no matter their religion. ‘Religious instruction is when one is taught about a specific religion and Religions Education is when one is taught how to be a good follower of that specific religion’, this was the policy of the previous government where only Christian’s were allowed to be taught. This form is no longer allowed to be taught at schools as it is the responsibility of the family or parents. Religious Education is now a form of education where there is no focus on a specific religion but rather teaches the learners about the different religions which aims to help learners understand each other’s traditions better. The new policy focuses on the values and moral education defined in South Africa, this encourages growth spiritually and morally. The new policy is based on: equity, including all religions; tolerance, informing the learners about the many religions to help create unity and to help the learners to understand the different religions and openness, Religious Education would teach the learners about the different religions and the learners would have knowledge of them to understand the core values to help them not judge people of other religions but to rather welcome and encourage them. (Damons, 2016)

The most vocal opponents were the Christian Reconstructionists that organised letter-writing campaigns, media events, and public meetings against the new policy. Their argument was that teaching and learning about religion, religions, and religious diversity, which is an educational rather than a religious activity, was encouraging a religious perspective. The main problem with the new policy was its encouragement of a single set of values under the image of tolerance. These values, which were disguised as relativism, situational ethics, and the equality of all religions, were reproached as the basic elements of a New Age religion. Teaching and assessment based on these values effectively creates promotion of a religious outlook in itself which challenges the human right to freedom of religion. This campaign did draw in parents who were concerned about the direction of educational policy in South Africa. (Larsen and Plesner, 2002)

Even though Paul Faller opposed the new policy, he actually acknowledged the gap between educational policy and educational practice in the classroom because teachers will be explaining and revisiting the curriculum every day, in each classroom By encouraging teachers to advance a religious education which is will help with development and not just make them knowledgeable about the subject, he hopes that there will be an establishment in practice where it was not achievable in the policy. (Larsen and Plesner, 2002)

This school’s already religious education policy should be better or more inclusive as it is a Catholic school, it tends to disregard other religions even though one does not need to be Catholic to attend this school, it is preferred. As St Dominic’s Priory has a very long history with the Catholic religion, it still maintains the fact that they are a Catholic school which means that they follow the Catholic way of doing everything that happens in the school including the religious gatherings such as masses and offering church services every Sunday in the church on the school grounds. I understand why the school treats the Catholic religion differently to other religions but I do not think that they should be so invasive and exclusive of other religions. From my experience at this school, I do not remember being introduced to other religions or other denominations of Christians, we were always told it that it was Catholics and others when being separated into our classes for Religious Education and even then in the ‘others’ class, they only learnt about the ‘simple’ version of Christianity and not other religions.

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