Thursday, 29 January 2015

How could the teaching of Buddhism be improved in schools?

RE Teachers’ contact with the Buddhist Community and Representatives

Generally speaking, delivery of the Curriculum benefits from closer cooperation with the Buddhist community.  

However most RE teachers do not seem to know who their Buddhist rep is, and this could suggest that very few secondary RE teachers enjoy a constructive relationship with their SACRE overall, or even that many SACREs do not have a Buddhist representative to advise them.

Ideas for improving the teaching of Buddhism  from the Teachers’ perspective

  • More interaction with the local Buddhist community for both teachers and school children, both in the classroom and out on a day trip
  • Good quality multimedia and interactive material targeted at the appropriate level: The material should be affordable or free; existing material is patchy (e.g.’ GCSE bitesize’ does not cover Buddhism.
  • Method and practice of teaching: the Agreed Syllabus could include and outline methods and practices for teaching Buddhism, more in line with its view of the world and approach to life, not just lists of contents, or topics taken in isolation and shoe-horned into an ill-fitting RE teaching model. To put it bluntly:
    • Buddhism is a non-theistic religion to start with, and boldly puts the Four Noble Truths at the heart of its teachings, laying out a path to be walked, rather than preaching salvation through the Mercy and/or Revelation by a (personal) Godhead;
    • Secondly it does not place as much emphasis on social engagement as a practice, though it recognizes its value in healing the artificial divide between me and other, but rather encourages introspective examination and development of awareness;
    • nor is it overly concerned with the dynamics and rituals surrounding sexuality, as some other traditions are; etc.

Interesting article here to investigate further:


‘Content-focus, as the all-in-all of an instructional scenario, only touches certain aspects of experience, usually verbal/analytic ones. This is particularly problematic in the teaching of Buddhist traditions, since so much of the “material” is dependent upon psycho-physical awareness: how one sits, breathes, and moves.’

Mariano Marcigaglia sits on the Southwark SACRE, helps out with RE support at the Buddhist Society, and maintains the Dharma People website and related blogs providing an index to interesting online material.

Read the full document he has produced: <here>
Mariano actively welcomes feedback to her review and proposals via:

Thursday, 8 January 2015

How could the teaching of Sikhism be improved in schools?

As a practising Sikh and a successful VAT Accountant, I decided to take a year out to enjoy my daughters introduction years to schooling, leading to much self-realisation and satisfaction in hosting school visits to the local Gurdwara.

The experience and uptake was overwhelming with well over 50% of local schools taking advantage of the opportunity. Curiosity led me to join the local SACRE and learn about the guidance that was provided to the schools.....and this is when I noticed a gap.

On speaking with many of the non-specialist teachers who came with the school children, it became apparent that many (through no fault of there own necessarily) had in fact simply been fitting the teaching of Sikhism into standard topic boxes ; 
  • Places Of Worship = Gurdwara
  • Religious leaders = 10 Gurus
  • Symbols = 5k's 
  • Festivals = Vaisakhi 
This quickly led to a teacher training session again at the Gurdwara, which allowed me, in just a short time, cover the whole syllabus, providing teachers the confidence to present everything with an "Outside of the Box" approach.

Teachers got so much from this, that even today, are emailing me with more detailed questions, and saying how much they love teaching Sikhism. I am now being invited into schools to lead workshops and assemblies, in a fun, friendly and interactive manner. Some teachers who have moved outside of the county have introduced me to there local SACRE and new schools, where the momentum of school visit requests has increased to literally spanning the whole of the UK.

Just through enhancing the confidence in teachers and working with the children, in a simple let lively manner, I think that many teachers are seeing that Sikhism is perhaps not just another religion, but understanding "Sikhi" more as a Way of Life that does fit inside the box but also lives outside it !

Harkirat Singh
Sikh Education Officer
07968 143546