Our older readers will remember lessons under the name religious instruction.

They were what they said they were. Instructions in religion (in this case Christianity).

In fact, we believe at some point in high schools Roman Catholics were not allowed to attend the Protestant assemblies.

Time moved on and religious instruction became religious education.

Yet at the start that was exclusively about Christianity.

Nowadays, we hope, religious education should be about all religions and explore what, for example, Sikhs believe, why they believe it and give some historical context.

It should be a fascinating subject and also provide insights into clashes involving religion.

Many of us are aware of the wars in Europe emanating from the Catholic/Protestant schism from the 16th century and, arguably, still resonating just 30 or 40 miles away from us in Northern Ireland.

But what about the differences between Sunni and Shia Muslims?

Surely a good understanding of today’s world would benefit from knowing about that?

Let’s go back to the difference between education and instruction.

We have reservations about religious groups – i.e. people with a vested interest in spreading their religion – being allowed into schools to talk to children about their beliefs.

That sort of ‘lesson’ must be closely monitored and vetted if it is to happen at all.

Education about religions should be left to the professionals – teachers who can try to take an objective perspective on the issue and talk about different sets of beliefs without feeling the need to favour one over another.

Further reading here.

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This Examiner comment column appeared in the March 21, 2023, edition.