Ethical choice instead of RE

20th August 2004 at 01:00

As new textbooks advocating abstinence, not condoms, are set to enter classrooms across America, TES correspondents look at three countries' approaches to sex education, teenage sex and morality

Catholic Austria is introducing lessons in ethics in schools around the country as an alternative to religious education.

The syllabus, for pupils aged 14-18, includes sexual and medical ethics, world religion, fundamentalism, justice and morality, technology and science, and philosophical theories.

"With today's integrated society, we can no longer expect every pupil to attend RE classes," said education ministry spokesman Ronald Zecha.

"Previously we have allowed pupils to use the time for their own purposes, but many students do not use the time constructively."

Now the education ministry has expanded a seven-year-old pilot project, in which pupils choose between RE lessons or ethics classes, from eight schools to 119.

But the ethics lessons are only offered to students aged 14 and above who are able to discuss more profound issues, said Mr Zecha, adding that more and more headteachers were approaching the ministry for permission to apply the new subject in their schools.

Mr Zecha said: "Students will discuss questions such as 'What does freedom mean?' or 'Why do people build relationships?'. It is all about learning how to deal with life."

The ministry spokesman said teachers are specially trained to take the classes alongside their usual subjects.

"Our institutes offer teachers courses that usually last around four years part-time," he said.

The ministry hopes the subject will be part of the national curriculum by 2020.

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