Russian schools to teach the fundamentals of religion.

From April, nineteen regions of Russia will teach an officially approved subject ‘Fundamentals of Religions and Secular Ethics’. Pupils will learn the subject during the last quarter of primary school and the first quarter of secondary school. According to Isaak Kalina, Deputy Minister of Education and Science, the age was recommended by psychologists. The subject consists of six topics: Orthodoxy, Islam, Buddhism and Judaism, world religions and secular ethics. Parents must choose one of the suggested topics for their children. Kalina believes the experiment will allow a “new relationship to be established between school and society.“ The curriculum states that the subject aims to develop pupils’ “understanding of moral ideas and values, that form the basis of religious and secular traditions.” According to Kalina, the new subject will introduce a younger generation to what is “an important part of culture, with no aim to enforce faith. Introducing pupils to the fundamentals of religion and secular ethics ….  will improve mutual and self respect.” 

Bishop Zaraisky Mercury, chairman of the Department of Religious Education and Catechesis of the Russian Orthodox Church stated “there is no missionary purpose to the course textbooks, but they provide an outlook on the world.” Aleksandr Kondakov, Chief Editor of publishing company ‘Enlightenment’ added that the textbooks are accompanied by CD’s. Likewise, a booklet was prepared for parents and a book with recommendations for teachers. “Developments and improvements will be made to the textbooks based on academic results.”

According to Kalina, results of the experiment will be monitored by the Ministry of Education and Science. Furthermore, “the Interagency Council has recommended the creation of coordinating bodies in nineteen regions of the Russian Federation that would report directly to the Governor, or at least the Vice-Governor.”  The coordinating bodies will include representatives of churches, academic and scientific communities. The bodies will monitor all requirements specified in the syllabus. Kalina promised that parents will be able to send any complaints or suggestions about the subject to the district or municipal departments of education or to the council.

Translated by Lina Numan  

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