Friday, 4 November 2016

Comparing RE in the UK and the Netherlands

In October, Mr Asje Palland, a teacher of Philosophy and RE from the Netherlands came to visit the RE department at our school for a week. The team of RE ambassadors were all very excited to meet him and discuss the similarities and differences between RE in the Netherlands and here in the UK.
Asje started off the meeting by asking us all to introduce ourselves and tell him what we like about RE. We all enjoy the subject so this wasn’t a difficult task!

 “I like RE because it gives you the chance to explore ways that different people live and it helps you to understand what they do and why they do it.”

“Our school is very diverse and I like RE because during a class discussion on a particular faith there is usually a person with that religion or belief in our class, so they help us understand the religion from their perspective and tell us about how they put their beliefs into practice.”

“I like RE because it helps me to understand other people’s beliefs and it always makes me think of the big question ‘why?’

We then spoke about what RE is like in our school and compared to RE in Asje’s school in the Netherlands. Students at both schools show great interest in the subject. In both schools ‘big questions’ are asked in RE lessons. RE is also a compulsory subject at both schools. The school in the Netherlands isn’t as diverse as Broughton, with the majority of its students being Christian or not having any religious belief. The school in the Netherlands teach Hinduism, Islam, Christianity and a little bit about Judaism whilst at our school we also learn about Sikhism and Buddhism. A major difference was the fact that in Dutch state schools Religious Education is not taught at all, however Asje’s school - Carolus Clusius College - is a Christian school and so RE is part of the school curriculum.
Carolus Clusius College is also an international school and this means that Asje teaches Philosophy and RE in English. Asje told us that learning English is crucial to students’ futures. If students go on to university all of the books and lectures will be in English and so learning the language and specialist terms within subjects like RE was an important part of academic preparation. We were surprised that they do not have any exams for RE in The Netherlands. Students learn the subject in order to prepare for life, not to sit an exam. 
Their school day is organised differently to ours. School starts at 8:15, but can finish at 2:40, 3:30 or 4:20 depending on the particular students timetable. Students have free periods for private study. In RE they also have something called a ‘quest card’. This allows students to skip the lesson to go and do further independent research on an aspect of the topic that particularly interests them. 

We also had the opportunity to ask Asje about his own religious beliefs. Asje is a Christian, but his daughter’s husband is a Messianic Jew and he was very proud to tell us about his grandson's recent Bar Mitzvah in Israel and show us some photographs of it. We had not heard of Messianic Jews before and it was really interesting to learn more about the diversity that exists in religion.

Asje was also keen to hear some of our big questions and why we believe that RE is so important. We discussed:

How can God exist when such bad things happen?
Why do people go to war?
Is there one ‘truth’ or many?

Finally, we spoke about how our actions can affect others and about the need to be informed about religion and beliefs so that we can challenge perceptions and begin to understand the bigger picture.

It was fascinating to hear about RE in another country. We hope to keep in touch with Mr Palland and to develop links with Carolus Clusius College.

Report by Zara Adam

Post Script:

"I would like to say thank you to Mr Morris who gave permission for my visit,
thank you to Hannah and Sophie who guided me through the buildings of the school,
thank you to Ms Jennifer Wozniack for a very vivid lesson in French,
thank you to the RE Ambassadors for an open meeting about RE in the Netherlands and in Broughton High School and about a lot of great questions of life,
thank you to all the pupils: they were really kind, open and polite,
thank you to all the colleagues for their interest and good fellowship and above all I would like to say thank you to Joanne and Vicky for their friendship. We will meet again!"

Asje Palland
teacher of Philosophy and Religious Education
Carolus Clusius College, Zwolle, the Netherlands

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