The wide-ranging Youth on Religion project has given us a number of insights into teenagers’ views on faith, including their concerns about the content and delivery of religious education. Professor Nicola Madge explains.
Young people in multi-faith areas favour multi-faith over single-faith schools. They also value religious education but want to see changes in its content and delivery.
New research findings from the Youth On Religion (YOR) study, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the Economic and Social Research Council’s Religion and Society programme, are based on a survey of more than 10,000 13 to 17-year-olds and interviews with around 160 17 to 18-year-olds.
The research was carried out in three multi-faith locations – the London boroughs of Hillingdon and Newham, and Bradford in Yorkshire. Participants came from a range of faith backgrounds and included Christians, Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus and those with no specific faith.
A central message from the research is that 6th-formers have a high level of respect and tolerance for peers from different backgrounds.
Most stress how multi-faith schooling, providing opportunities to get to know other pupils with a range of faith values, is good preparation for later life, including going to university. Mixing at school or college also encourages an interest in diversity and helps to reduce prejudice.
Multi-faith schools do not, however, provide any guarantee of integration. Reports of religious and cultural groups clustering together, and clear indications that pupils are particularly likely to choose best friends from similar faith and cultural backgrounds, emerged from the study.
Nonetheless serious clashes between faith groups at school or college seemed rare. Arguments and name-calling were reported but did not appear to be predominantly about religious values, even if religious labels were used as forms of abuse.