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Mixed blessings for religious studies

BUDDHISM: A NEW APPROACH By Steve Clarke and Mel Thompson. SIKHISM : A NEW APPROACH By Pamela Draycott Hodder amp; Stoughton Pounds 8.50 each

These two information books are well-researched and academically sound for GCSE level, with the Buddhism volume the more substantial, both in length and depth of commentary.

The layout is colourful, witha high standard of photographs and illustrations, but at times there is too much to look at. The use of devices such as fact boxes is inconsistent and Sikhism has a few distracting printing errors.

Dharmachari Aloka, the Buddhist illustrator for both books, has a bold, bright style, but the standard of work is variable and the choice of topics is bewildering.

Some of the drawings in Sikhism seem superfluous: why have a drawn version of a gurdwara opposite a photograph of virtually the same subject? The humour in a few of the cartoons ("Oh Dukkha!" as an expletive in Buddhism) might not be appreciated by everyone.

The language level is challenging but each book adopts a different style which should enable pupils to learn. Buddhism has the more engaging tone, almost as if the material is being taught, and encourages reflection.

Both books have a range of activities, mostly of the "knowledge and understanding" variety. There is also a detailed contents list, an index and a glossary (compatible with the recent School Curriculum and Assessment Authority glossary). Good resources for key stage 4 are in short supply and these should make useful additions.

Linda Rudge is director of the Keswick Hall Centre for Research and Development in Religious Education at the University of East Anglia, Norwich

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