Reasoned press review
Keywords: ethics, public school, teaching of religions, alternative teaching, Austria, Germany, Spain, Italy
This section offers articles, in-depth analyses and reflections on the topic of the teaching of religions and/or ethics in the public schools of several European countries.
Ethics – new compulsory subject for students not attending religion classes
By Sara Giorgetti
With a resolution of the National Council of 20 November 2020, BGBl. I Nr. 133/20201, the School Organization Act was amended, and ethics was introduced in Austrian public schools as a compulsory subject for all students who choose not to attend religion classes. This is a long-term school experiment, which provides an educational opportunity for students who do not participate to any religious denomination or who decide to renounce religious education.
In particular in § 39 par. 1 the following sentence is added:
“As of the ninth year of schooling, the compulsory subject of ethics shall be offered in the amount of two lessons per week for students who do not participate in religious instruction”.
It is further specified in § 43 subsection 3 that:
“The compulsory subject of ethics is taught, as far as possible, at the same time as the religious education of the church (religious community) to which the largest number of students in the school belongs. If churches (religious communities) hold religious education in a cooperative form, the sum of all members of the churches (religious communities) participating in the cooperation is used to determine the number of students. If fewer than ten students in a class are required to participate in the teaching of ethics, they will first be grouped with students from other classes in the same grade, then with other classes in the school, and finally with students from other schools until the number of at least ten is reached’.
1 Link to the complete reading of the law: https://www.ris.bka.gv.at/eli/bgbl/I/2020/133. In the August 2021 edition of EREnews we announced the approval of the new law, before it was applied for the 2021/2022 school year (see https://erenews.uniroma3.it/numeri-di-erenews/).
Thus, the ethics hour is scheduled for
two hours per week and only in high
schools. A minimum number of ten
participants is required for the course
to be activated within the school. The decision to systematically introduce the hour of ethics in Austrian schools is motivated by the growing number of young people who drop out of religious instruction or who do not belong to any religious community and is aimed at ensuring that these boys and girls are given an in-depth study in the ethical, social and legislative spheres.
Circular 5/2021 has made known the implementation guidelines for religious and ethical teaching2: the new ethics lessons are intended to enable students to reflect in an autonomous way on how to successfully construct their own lives, providing them with tools to critically orient themselves in the world and guiding them towards deep reflection on themselves and their personal and professional choices. By addressing the human condition from philosophical, anthropological, ideological, cultural and religious perspectives, ethics lessons aim to contribute to the development of the individual personality.
The introduction of ethics as a school subject originates from a long experimentation: for more than 20 years, 233 Austrian secondary schools have organized ethics lessons as part of experimental projects.
The first school year in which the new law was applied was 2021/22 in lower and upper secondary schools, including boarding schools and evening schools for workers. On 7 June 2021, new curricula were drafted and issued (OJ No. II No. 250/2021), based on those of the pilot schools, which were derived from a wide range of very diverse school experiences. The core of the new ethics lessons is constituted by philosophy, flanked also by other disciplines (psychology, sociology, religious studies, history, law, biology, economics, political science).
Following the introduction of ethics as a compulsory subject, structured teaching at university level became necessary in order to train teachers. At the beginning of the academic year 2021/22, the qualification to teach ethics was offered at the following universities: Vienna, Innsbruck, Graz, Salzburg, Klagenfurt, Linz Private Catholic University. A provisional university course based on a curriculum jointly developed at teacher training colleges, universities and KPH Vienna/Krems with a total of 60 credits was initially developed as part-time education and training. A first teaching Qualification requires 30 CFU in the first year of study, a further 30 CFU from year 2 to year 4 to complete the academic course.
2 Link to full reading of the guidelines: https://rundschreiben.bmbwf.gv.at/rundschreiben/?id=1014.
The first school year in which the new law was adopted is now coming to an end, and the new ethics lessons seem to have met with interest from students and families. So, to what extent have the new ethics lessons been appreciated? How do they relate to the teaching of the Catholic religion and other religious confessions?
“Religionspädagogen: Fach Ethik ist Bereicherung, nicht Konkurrenz”
Religious education experts from different confessions in an interview define religion and ethics as two disciplines that enrich and complement but are not in competition one with another.
In einer Stellungnahme der interreligiös besetzten “ARGE Religionspädagogik an Universitäten” heißt es zum Verhältnis der beiden, seit dem laufenden Schuljahr parallel in Oberstufenklassen verpflichtend angebotenen Schulgegenstände:
“Religionsunterricht und Ethikunterricht stellen keine – wie oft angenommen – konkurrierenden Angebote dar, die gegeneinander ausgespielt werden sollen, sondern sie sind sinnvolle Ergänzungen in der Schulwirklichkeit. Beide haben das Ziel, eine reflektierte und begründete Wertorientierung von Schüler*innen zu ermöglichen.”
Read more: https://www.katholisch.at/aktuelles/137647/religionspaedagogen-fach ethik-ist-bereicherung-nicht-konkurrenz
From: https://www.vienna.at/ethikunterricht-zahlen-im-religionsunterricht stabil/7272534
“Ethikunterricht: Zahlen im Religionsunterricht stabil”
This article gives details of the numbers of Austrian students who chose to attend the new ethics classes this year as an alternative to traditional religious instruction (specifying the different percentages of the student population who are Catholics, of other Christian denominations, of other religious faiths or who do not belong to any confession). The university courses activated for the training of new ethics teachers are also indicated.
Ethikunterricht: Zahlen im Religionsunterricht stabil. Ethikunterricht als Ersatzfach wurde bisher an 233 AHS und BMHS (berufsbildenden mittleren und höheren Schulen) als Schulversuch angeboten, mit diesem Schuljahr wurde er ins Regelschulwesen überführt und damit im Ausmaß von zwei Wochenstunden an 922 Standorten verpflichtend. Gestartet wurde mit den neunten Schulstufen, der Endausbau soll 2024/25 (AHS) bzw. 2025/26 (BMHS) erreicht sein.
Read more: https://www.vienna.at/ethikunterricht-zahlen-im-religionsunterricht stabil/7272534
“Ein Schulfach namens Ethik”
Lessons of ethics lead students to reflect on the great existential questions that humanity has always asked itself and stimulate the development of critical thinking.
Was ist wichtig im Leben? Was ist gut und richtig? Der Ethikunterrichtet bietet Raum, um über Grundsatzfragen nachzudenken und das eigene Handeln in der Gruppe zu reflektieren. Seit dem Schuljahr 2021/22 ist Ethik ab der Oberstufe Pflichtgegenstand für jene, die ohne Konfession sind oder sich gegen den Religionsunterricht entscheiden.
Read more: https://oe1.orf.at/programm/20220329/672777/Ein-Schulfach-namens Ethik
Universities, however, have also been actively engaged both in training teaching staff to teach ethics, and in increasing the interest of society and the academic community towards the new discipline. In this regard, it is worth mentioning an initiative by the University of Innsbruck, which organised an online forum about the relationship between ethics and religious education.
Rund 100 Interessierte nahmen vom 24.-25. Februar 2022 an der 4. Tagung des Forums „Zukunftsfähiger Religionsunterricht” teil, die unter dem Titel „Ethik- und Religionsunterricht: Eine spannungsreiche Beziehung“ online veranstaltet und mit Grußworten von Bildungsminister Martin Polaschek und Rektor Tilmann Märk eröffnet wurde.
Read more: https://www.uibk.ac.at/newsroom/ethik–und-religionsunterricht-eine spannungsreiche-beziehung.html.de