Conseil supérieur de l'éducation
 
Catholic Committee: THE FUTURE of Religion in the Schools

by Guy Côté
President of the Catholic Committee

 

Since the creation of the Conseil supérieur de l’éducation and the confessional committees in 1964, the issue of the place of religion in the schools has resulted in considerable studies, debate and innovation throughout the entire school system. In recent years, the establishment of linguistic school boards, the amendment of section 93 of the Canadian Constitution and, finally, the adoption of Bill 118 have profoundly changed the legal and institutional environment surrounding religious education in the schools.

The real scope of recent changes is still difficult to gauge. Some feel that they threaten to lead to religious instruction being eliminated from the schools entirely, while others believe that these reforms might lead to a new beginning in a less turbulent climate. Without minimizing the real danger of fragilization, the Catholic Committee has chosen to adopt a constructive approach to the changes under way, as shown in its most recent publications: Renewing the Place of Religion in the Schools (October 1999), The New Outlook for Religious Education in the Schools (August 2000) and A New Place for Religion in the Schools (September 2000), published jointly with the Protestant Committee. Among the various partners involved in religious education in the schools, many are also determined to do the best they can within the context of the new legal provisions.

 

Conditions and means

Commitment to providing young people with moral and spiritual education services cannot, however, continue without certain conditions and means. Top-ranking among these is maintaining sufficient time for moral and religious education, and ensuring appropriate measures for teacher training and professional development. These two factors are interrelated to some extent: excessively reducing teaching time, particularly at the secondary level, would have such a negative impact on the workload of those teachers concerned that it would make it very difficult to develop a new generation of instructors. It is easy to imagine the consequences this could have on the survival of moral and religious education in whatever form.

Rallying around the reforms under way also presupposes certain conditions for stability. Where religious education is concerned, new programs are being implemented and others will have to be developed (ethics and religious culture). We will have to prepare teaching tools, rethink teacher training, and provide professional support to teaching staff. The spiritual animation and community commitment service, for its part, requires skilled staff, the support of the different religious denominations and trust on the part of parents. How can all of these requirements be met within a time frame that might just be too tight? The future of religion in the schools is based on a choice of society. This choice has been expressed through the National Assembly, following a highly democratic process. It seems reasonable to think that this choice is based on considerations that are solid enough to ensure that it lasts for some time.

 

Post-scriptum

When this newsletter is published, the Catholic Committee of the Conseil supérieur de l’éducation will have terminated its mandate. Through its work, the Committee wished to contribute in different ways to the development and growth of Québec’s educational system. It has always sought to reconcile the expectations and needs of the Catholic population, which it was mandated to defend before the government, with the public interest, respect for rights and changing attitudes. The Committee on Religious Affairs will now take over in a new context. On behalf of the Catholic Committee, I would like to express our best wishes to the members of this new body and to all those working now and in the future to provide young people with moral and religious education.


Panorama • Volume 5, Number 3 • November 2000

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