Science and Religion in Schools: Guides for Teachers
The aim of these two guides is clearly stated: “…to encourage the teaching in schools of issues concerning the debate between the claims of science and those of the major world religions.” The way of addressing this is through stimulation of open-minded discussion and balanced pictures of the different worldviews.
Accompanying the guides is a CD-ROM which consists of the whole available material. The resources on the CD-ROM are well illustrated and very informative. It’s also possible to take a look at a selection of the CD-ROM at the website (www.srsp.net).
Some of the opening chapters in the two volumes are identical. They introduce the project and give a short overview of the history in science and religion. The guide for primary schools (ages 7-11) is structured in nine units. The subjects and their contents are clearly written. Each opens with a summary and continues into key questions, learning opportunities, resources and a list of further reading. The units contain interesting subjects, such as: “Our World”, “Does Science tell the truth?” and “Time and Space”.
The material for Secondary schools (ages 11-19) is more extensive. It has almost the same structure as the guide for primary schools, but is broader, deeper and more differentiated in its content. It is also divided into two major parts, one for the age-range 11-16 and one for 16-19. Further, each topic in this guide is broken down into more specific subjects. Thus one main topic is: “How do we find about the world?” This unit is concretized under several subheadings, e.g. “What is an explanation?”, “What is real?” and “Wholes or parts?”
The framework of the material is based on the structure of schools in the UK, but it is very easy to relate the topics to other school-systems, because it gives information about the relevant age and level for each unit (e.g. the overview on page 18-19). Later, a more specific connection is made between the units and school curricula in the UK (e.g. tables on page 38-41). The guide also contains a glossary and a list of recommended resources.
It is of great value that the material focuses on science and religion and not only on the specific Christian theological tradition. With this perspective, the guides are able to address the different world religions and faiths, and this is very relevant in the multi-religious societies of Western Europe.
One of the major challenges for a teacher is to relate topics to the students in an intelligible way. To adjust material in the light of the students’ age and their ability to understand a complex subject are two main aspects of this challenge. The material in these volumes focuses on the average student, but supplies additional subjects for those who want to pursue matters further. Thus these guides provide splendid help in addressing relevant issues and questions at the right level.
The material presented in the guides has been developed by teachers and reviewed by an academic advisory panel. It has also been tested and rewritten in the light of comments and criticism. Both these quality-assuring elements are among the many advantages with this material, because teachers are busy in their daily work and need guides which are “to the point”, easy to apply and, of course, up to date academically. Another valuable feature is that teachers can select which parts to use, and utilize only what they find relevant in their teaching.
Mr. Martin Rogers, Prof. John Hedley Brooke, and their editorial team have developed two admirable basic guides for use in schools. My hope is that the material will be used extensively by teachers, but also act as a starting-point for further development of these well-written and high-quality resources.