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Public Schools Need to Improve Teaching About Religion


January 26, 2022

OTTAWA, ON – Canada’s public schools could be doing a better job teaching students about religion and belief. A new Cardus report, Needs Improvement: How Public Schools Teach About Religion, examined elementary and high school curricula in British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario, and Nova Scotia. The report found that most provinces fail to teach kids about religion in a balanced and informed way.

“We find Ontario to be the stand-out example of a more expansive engagement with religion, both in terms of exploring the various religious traditions’ history as well as how they are lived out in the lives of Canadians today,” writes Rev. Dr. Andrew Bennett, Director of Cardus Religious Freedom and author of the report. “The curricula of the other three provinces tend to present religion primarily from a distanced, historical, or sociological perspective. In some instances, we find that these curricula present some religions or spiritualities in consistently favourable or unfavourable ways, despite the officially secular, non-sectarian nature of public education.”

The report concludes that teaching about religion should be a basic part of Canadian education.

“If public education is truly about forming each generation so that they may play an active role in society and contribute in meaningful ways, it must reflect the fact that religion affects and shapes the lives of many Canadians,” writes Bennett in the report.

Needs Improvement: How Public Schools Teach About Religion makes several recommendations to help provincial education departments cover religion and belief more effectively in their curricula. Key recommendations include:

  • Present religion as part of the rich mosaic of Canadian life, in a spirit of hospitality toward one another’s religious faith and practices, something Ontario’s grades 9–10 Canadian and World Studies curriculum does well.
  • Consider religion not only from historical and sociological angles but also from contemporary and more personal (philosophical, humanistic, etc.) angles.
  • Be alert to biases that may creep into the curriculum, explicitly or implicitly, that work against the goals of public education.
  • During K–12 curricular design, consider consultation with faith leaders for their reflections and suggestions on the curriculum as drafted.

Needs Improvement: How Public Schools Teach About Religion is freely available online.


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