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Religion and Education; where do we draw the line?

What is the real purpose of education? Is it limiting students to a specific set of values so that they become ‘correct’ human beings or is it simply making room for new ideas and curiosity that can eventually lead to a better world? 

People may claim that teaching school-going children religious instructions help them become more correct and righteous. But the adverse effects of promoting religious exclusivism in the disguise of teaching morals and values, cannot and should not be ignored. 

Article 28 (1) of the Indian Constitution states that “No religious instructions shall be provided in any educational institution wholly maintained out of state funds.” Technically, the article prohibits the teaching of religious texts in Public schools. Private schools that are recognized by the state are also barred from offering the students religious instructions or promoting any religion exclusively. 

Of course, teaching a pluralist concept of religion in schools is advantageous; even important. Teaching about different religions in school can help broaden the minds of the students and help them become more accepting of their peers’ faiths. However, to actually achieve this from religious studies, it is important to teach the topics with appropriate social and historical context. 

The line 

Teaching a specific religion in schools to create an environment of religious exclusivism can have harmful effects on the minds of the school-going population, directly or indirectly. Such teachings can create confusion for the students and limit their growth in different ways. This is where it is important to draw the line. 

Here’s how providing religious instructions in the school curriculum can affect children; 

Promotes a narrow mindset among the students 

One of the most basic purposes of educational institutions is to broaden the perspectives of the students through education. Teaching a specific religion in the curriculum or trying to push the exclusive religious narratives on the students fails that purpose. 

Such radical views can stunt the educational growth of the students since they can limit the students’ ability to ask questions and their readiness for learning something new. 

It might create a disregard for science

All major religions around the world consist of theological narratives and mythological stories. Some of these stories may contradict the concepts of science. For example, most religions have their own mythological concepts of human origins that clash with human evolution theories. This can be definitely confusing for the students. 

In educational institutions, it is important to teach the students verified scientific concepts rather than the mythological ones which might be propagated by religious teachings. 

Students from different faiths may feel isolated 

By creating an environment of religious exclusivism, schools also end up isolating students who have a different religious faith. Especially, if the school aids in promoting the faith of the religious majority, it is only natural that the students from the religious minority groups will be left out of the conversations. 

Such isolated environments in schools can contribute to the mental health declining of students from minority groups. 

It might propagate hate and discrimination  

With religious exclusivism comes the mindset of ‘us and them’. The teaching of such harmful tropes in schools can lead to the propagation of hate and discrimination towards the students who are from different religious backgrounds. Such hate and discrimination can be both among the students or institutionalized; both of which are harmful and concerning to the safety of students. 

Violates the religious freedom of students as human beings 

Every human being has a right to understand, perceive and choose a religion or a religious ideology. But when a specific religion is taught exclusively in a school, the students lose the opportunity to understand religion from their own perspectives. With the teachers constantly feeding the students with religious instructions, the students start internalizing the values and beliefs of the religion. 

Atheist and free-thinking groups in the classroom also suffer because of religious exclusivism in the school since their ideological ideas are entirely disregarded in routine conversations. 

Religion has always been a huge part of human society. Studying different religions and their effects can be beneficial to understand their complexities of it. But when schools start incorporating the instructions and texts of a specific religion and create an exclusivist environment, the true purpose of education starts decaying. 

At Great Principals, we hope to bring about a necessary change in the ways of Indian Education. Each new generation is far more capable than the last, and we owe it to evolution. But as humans evolve, we are required to transcend from our old ways and look at things from a different perspective, one that shapes the untapped minds of the children for the ever-growing world.

We are here to capture the journeys of marvelous School Leaders and Principals through an interactive talk show. We hope to inspire the parents who are the true changemakers in a child’s growing life. Our goal is to bring about a much-needed change in the way we educate our kids. Feel free to check out our episodes on YouTube www.youtube.com/c/GreatPrincipals.

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