Different contexts, same problems? structural issues for religious education in transnational contexts: Scotland and Malawi as cases

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Comparative studies in the area of Religious Education (RE) have traditionally examined the subject in similar national, regional or cultural contexts. Besides the small country to country comparative studies in RE that have appeared, during the past decade at least three major European and UK-wide projects have been completed: the European wide ‘Religion, Education, Dialogue, Conflict’ (2007), the UK-wide ‘Does Religious Education Work?’ (2010) and another UK-wide study entitled ‘Young People’s Attitudes to Religious’ (2012). These empirical studies are important because they expose patterns and trends for RE as a contested area of study. They highlight children and young people’s engagement and experiences with RE existing in a liberal and increasingly secular environment. They also compare and contrast issues in the professional work of RE teachers in culturally diverse classrooms.

This paper is distinctive because it describes structural issues that constrain the efficacy of RE between two countries, one African and culturally conservative (Malawi) and the other European and liberal in outlook (Scotland). It draws data from a phenomenological study which examined curriculum developments in RE in Scotland and Malawi, from 1970 to 1972. Data for the study was collected from relevant documents (reports, policy papers and curriculum materials) and interviews with key stakeholders (n61), which included headteachers, teachers, parents, education officials, RE lecturers and religious leaders.

The findings suggest that despite the subtle differences that exists in the two diverse national contexts of Scotland and Malawi, the efficacy of RE is diminished by five factors, namely: micro-politics of stakeholder engagement with RE in public schools; ‘flexibility’ of national policy and its impact on the nature and extent of provision of RE; absence of effective central oversight in the management of RE; staffing shortage and inadequate professional support for support; examination oriented practices in the provision of RE and its impact on the quality of teaching and learning in RE.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2014
Event58th Annual Conference of the Comparative & International Education Society: Revisioning Education for All - Sheraton Centre Toronto Hotel, Toronto, Canada
Duration: 10 Mar 201415 Mar 2014
http://2014.cies.us/ (Conference website)


Conference58th Annual Conference of the Comparative & International Education Society
Abbreviated titleCIES 2014
Internet address


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