Religious and moral education at the crossroads: the Malawian example

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Malawi’s religious/secular demography shows that Christianity (82.7%) make up the largest religious group, followed by Islam (13.0%) and then small pockets of African Traditional Religions, Buddhism, Hinduism and others such as Rastafarianism (1.8%). Overall, 2.5% of Malawians say that they have no religion. Since the major curriculum reforms in 2000, there was an attempt to replace the historical Bible Knowledge (BK) curriculum which was confessional in nature with a new subject called Religious and Moral Education (RME) and phenomenological in its outlook. RME, unlike BK, is aligned to socio-cultural trends in society and best suited to help inculcating in children pro-social values of inclusion towards citizenship. The reforms in RE took place at a time when the country’s political landscape was changing from one party political state to a democracy under a new president, a Muslim, in a ‘Christian’ country where since independence in 1964 the life president was a Christian. Inevitably changes introduced in RE were resisted especially by the Christian majority while at the sometime welcomed by other faith groups particularly Muslims essentially because Islam was not to be taught as part of RME. This led to the suspension of the new RME programme in 2000 and a year later when a compromise arrangement was agreed which produced a dual policy in which both BK and RME would be offered in schools. This paper reports on the findings of a study that examined curriculum changes related to the implementation of secondary Religious Education (RE) in four main areas: (a) ineffective consultation with key stakeholders, (b) political ramifications, (c) churches’ desire to maintain the status quo and (d) lack of an effective implementation strategy. The findings have important lessons on why curriculum reform in sub-Saharan are usually fiercely resisted by key stakeholders. It concludes by suggesting how these problems can be avoided to ensure successful implementation of RME
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 24 Sep 2010
EventEconomic and Social Research Council Conference 2010 - University of Glasgow, Glasgow, United Kingdom
Duration: 24 Sep 201024 Sep 2010


ConferenceEconomic and Social Research Council Conference 2010
Abbreviated titleESCR 2010
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


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