Teaching Religion in Late Modern Sweden: Professionalism on the borders between public and private

How does the changed role of religion in today’s society affect Religious Education in schools? And how do teachers handle the inherent tensions in the subject in school?

Teaching religion in a culturally and religiously diverse society can be both challenging and demanding. Recent studies shows that Religious Education (RE) teachers often avoid sensitive issues concerning values and existential questions, and instead prefer to focus on facts, which in turn leads to pupils losing motivation and interest in the subject.

This new project aims to explore how teachers experience and handle the tensions of RE teaching. Previous research has showed that the pupils’ weak interest can be understood by the changing role of religion in society. Religion has mainly been seen as strictly a personal matter. Today it is rather discussed in the public sphere. Few pupils have personal experience of religion.

The research project is funded by Vetenskapsrådet (The Swedish Research Council), for four years. The project will include class room observations and interviews among some 20 teachers of school years 7-9 (högstadium) and 20 upper secondary school teachers (gymnasium) will be included in the study.

The results of the study will add both to research on teacher professionalism and to the on-going discussion of the changing role of religion in contemporary Western societies, on the border between public and private.
Researchers: Maximilian Broberg, Malin Löfstedt, Anders Sjöborg (PI)