Religion has no place as an instrument of education

23rd January 1998 at 00:00
Just when I thought the Government had begun to understand the needs of education in the last gasps of the 20th century, it introduces a measure that has all the trademarks of Dickensian dogma.

I refer to the decision to state-fund Muslim schools. It is so hard to write on this subject without appearing to be a politically incorrect racist. In my case, there is nothing further from the truth. I have lived and worked among the Muslim communities of the West Midlands for most of my life and find it so sad that we cannot disassociate the education system from religion.

Since the Second World War we have made great strides in producing equal opportunity education for all. Doing so has, quite rightly, caused the demise, if not the disappearance of various elements of segregated education.

Children, for the most part, are no longer segregated by race, wealth, ability, or physical handicaps. Yet this age-old category of religion still divides us in the pursuit of knowledge. Surely the need for education is so basic and crucial to our future that it overrides religious beliefs.

When our Christians, Jews and Muslims have received their education, they do not use it in a sectarian world. We don't have Muslim doctors dealing with purely Muslim patients, or Christian teachers refusing to teach members of other religions. Why then should the process of education require religious segregation?

The one element of education that seems ill at ease in modern society, is the existence of schools belonging to a particular religious denomination. For parents who wish their children to be part of a religious faith, it is their duty to provide them with this knowledge at home or through worship. Education is non-sectarian and should be respected as such.

What would happen if schools were created to cater for everyone who thinks passionately about their beliefs? Would the Government fund schools for the agnostic, the conservationist, the Moonie, or even the Arsenal supporter or the Sainsbury shopper? Religion is a part of education, but education should never be used as an instrument of religion. It is too valuable for that.

STEVEN DEVRELL

10 Swinbrook Way The Chancels Solihull West Midlands

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