London, Jan 18 (IANS) — Some of these schools were not teaching children to be tolerant of unbelievers, according to chief schools inspector David Bell. Urging the government to keep an eye on religious schools, he said the risks involved in failure to do so could be high.
Delivering a speech on “The Teaching of Citizenship” to the Hansard Society, Bell said: “This growth in faith schools needs to be monitored by the government to ensure that pupils at all schools receive an understanding of not only their own faith but of other faiths and the wider tenets of British society.”
His remarks have reopened the debate about religious schools, which erupted in the wake of the race riots in Britain’s northern cities in 2001 and gained fresh urgency in the wake of the Sep 11 terror attacks.
Reports had subsequently warned of the increasing segregation of white and Asian communities.
It was important to promote national ‘coherence’ as well as diversity, Bell said. OFSTED is expected to publish its annual report in February. The report is likely to show a sharp rise in the number of private religious schools, which are also called faith schools.
Since such schools are independent, they do not have to comply with the national curriculum in the same way as schools that receive state funding. There are now 100 private Muslim schools and the same number operated by evangelical Christians. There are also more than 50 Jewish schools, Bell said.
It was the right of parents to be able to choose this kind of school, he stressed. “Yet, on the other hand, faith should not be blind,” he added.
“I worry that many young people are being educated in faith-based schools with little appreciation of their wider responsibilities and obligations to British society.”
He quoted from the forthcoming OFSTED report: “Many schools must adapt their curriculum to ensure that it provides pupils with a broad general knowledge of public institutions and services in England and helps them to acquire an appreciation of and respect for other cultures in a way that promotes tolerance and harmony.”
© 2005 IANS India Private Limited, New Delhi. Posted on Religioscope with permission.