Home Editorial Religious Education In Our Schools; Rev. Joel Cumberbatch’s Perspective

Religious Education In Our Schools; Rev. Joel Cumberbatch’s Perspective

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Here is a recent entry by Reverend Dr. Joel Cumberbatch on the debate regarding the potential removal of Religious Education from schools. Reverend Dr. Joel Cumberbatch is the General Superintendent of the Wesleyan Holiness Church in the Caribbean as well as a secondary school teacher.

“I do not support the untimely call for the removal of Religious Education in our schools in Barbados. In fact, I am of the view that the programme should be expanded. At the secondary level, the syllabus is quite integrative and mirrors Caribbean life in a significant way. Just at the beginning of the current Michaelmas term, a student dropped me a pleasing note via email expressing gratitude for the work we had covered on Marcus Garvey in the second form when we looked at Rastafari and its contribution to the Barbadian and Caribbean societies. She received a grade 1 in CSEC History this immediate past academic year and was very appreciative of that exposure in the Religious Education class, which had assisted her greatly in fully answering that question on Garvey. But Religious Education also exposes the students to the ‘spiritual diversities and realities’ of people, that we have to interface with during the course of life, whether at school, in the community, at work, or in the global space. It is amazing what a knowledge of the belief systems of others do in terms of the development of a profound appreciation for, and tolerance of others even though you may not share their particular beliefs. It also fosters a sense of unity even in the midst of diversity.

From the Christian perspective, many churches even prior to the COVID 19 pandemic had expressed concern that our young people were not attending church or participating in the church’s programmes as happened in the past. The reality is that many of our children are growing up with a serious gap in terms of spiritual nurture. Many of them are not involved in church life in any form or fashion. The only opportunity many of these persons have to deal with religion and spirituality is in the classroom. Other related vital Human life issues like the family, capital punishment, child abuse, HIV/AIDS, vandalism & war, dealing with the mentally and physically challenged, poverty, unemployment, are covered in Religious Education.

As far as I am aware, parents still exercise the option of not allowing their children to take Religious Education, and it is mostly on religious grounds. My experience has been that the vast majority of students take the subject and enjoy it as well. We may produce brilliant professionals whether musicians, scientists, engineers, etc., but to my mind, we will do them a great disservice if we rob them of that early spiritual nurture which in our context the school works along with the home and the church in providing for our children.”

It is amazing what a knowledge of the belief systems of others do in terms of the development of a profound appreciation for, and tolerance of others even though you may not share their particular belief

Reverend Dr. Joel Cumberbatch

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