A comparative study of religious education in Scotland and Malawi with special reference to developments in the secondary school sector, 1970-2010

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


This thesis provided a systematic comparison of Religious Education (RE) as it has evolved in the secondary school curriculum of Scotland and Malawi, between 1970 and the present day (2010). It sought to draw analogies and, where valid, to indicate significant points of difference regarding key issues that underpin this development between two countries that also have a historical relationship dating back to 1859. This was a qualitative study which used the phenomenological research method. In both countries data was collected through field-based research using key informant interviews (n60), relevant documents and school surveys. The conceptual framework of the thesis was based on concepts and issues in the discourse of contemporary RE. The constant comparison strategy of data analysis was implemented in exploring issues that emerged in the research. To facilitate the analysis of secondary school RE in Scotland and Malawi a thematic approach was adopted in which six key issues were identified and investigated. The first explored the historical problem of underdevelopment in RE. The second examined motives that engendered reforms in the RE curriculum. The third described the various curriculum changes in RE during the period under study. The fourth discussed contested spaces related to the micro-politics of RE. The fifth surveyed the level of provision in RE in different school contexts. The sixth and last assessed the current state of RE. The findings of this study suggested that despite some points of difference, there was greater similarity on salient issues that underpinned the nature of secondary school RE in the two countries, in areas such as the need for curriculum reform, micro-politics of reform, provision in schools and status of the subject. Given the challenges the subject faces in both Scotland and Malawi, the study concluded that without government intervention and support from other key stakeholders RE will continue to be regarded as a marginal curriculum subject.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • University of Glasgow
  • Davis, Robert, Supervisor, External person
  • Conroy, James, Supervisor, External person
Award date8 Nov 2011
Publication statusPublished - 2011
Externally publishedYes


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