Thursday, May 22, 2008

Humanism Included in Religious Studies GCSE

For the first time, pupils will have the opportunity to study Humanism as part of a Religious Studies GCSE, according to draft proposals for a new Philosophy and Ethics course from exam board OCR
(Oxford, Cambridge and RSA exam boards).

OCR’s Religious Studies suite offers two courses, including a traditional faith-based approach with its World Religions GCSE, where students can study Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism and Sikhism.
The Philosophy and Ethics GCSE takes a modern issues-based approach and encourages students to examine the perspectives which different belief systems take to real-life concerns such as euthanasia and abortion. The course includes units looking at different beliefs on topics such as the Nature of Good and Evil, Medical Ethics and Death and the Afterlife. Students are encouraged to engage with various religious beliefs, with the main focus for teaching on the six main world religions (Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism and Sikhism) and Humanism.
Humanism has been added to reflect the increasing number of people sharing humanist beliefs in the UK . Andrew Copson, Director of Education at the British Humanist Association, said: ‘Since the 1960’s the proportion of those whose beliefs and values are Humanist has steadily increased and a MORI poll in 2006 showed that 36 per cent of the UK population shared Humanist views on morality and knowledge. Recent popular works by British Humanists have also helped bring Humanist beliefs and values to greater public prominence. ‘The DfES and QCA have both recommended that Religious Studies should include the study of Humanism so it’s great that OCR has brought Humanism within the scope of their GCSE. We hope that it will make the subject of Religious Studies more engaging for all young people and more relevant to the whole of our diverse society.’

The revised specifications are part of the current nationwide 14 to 19 education reforms and will be ready for first teaching from September 2009, subject to approval from qualifications regulator QCA (Qualifications and Curriculum Authority) Teachers and students can view the new specification at, along with details of all new draft GCSE specifications from OCR .

A DfES survey of 2004 showed that over 60% of 12-19 year olds said they were not religious and it is a vital part of the BHA’s work to promote beliefs and values education in schools which will be relevant to this majority of pupils and students.

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