An interfaith charity is calling for more interaction between school pupils of different religions.
In a report launched last week at the Institute for Public Policy Research, the Three Faiths Forum (3FF) - together with educational think-tank LKMco - said there must be a “major shift in education policy” towards a system of “intercultural education”.
The report – entitled “Encountering Faiths and Beliefs" – argued that “multiculturalism” is not enough; “pupils need to be given practical skills to engage with one another and to face inter-religious tensions and prejudices.”
According to researcher Anna Tretheway, who wrote the report, “bad intercultural education can be worse than no intercultural education at all.
“Our research uncovered examples of poor intercultural education that only reinforced stereotypes or which took an unbalanced and tokenistic approach. In one example, people had invited guests to a synagogue, but were then denied access to a church on a reciprocal visit.”
The charity said that religious education was not enough. For example, “while a traditional RE lesson might look at Islamic beliefs around the hijab, the report highlights one session in which a Muslim women explained why she changed her mind about wearing the hijab”.
Launching the report, 3FF director Stephen Shashoua said there is an “urgent need to promote effective methods for policymakers and educators to better deal with the complex realities around religion and belief.
“Young people need the skills to successfully navigate and thrive in our diverse society.”