Religious education in schools too narrow

PUBLISHED : Monday, 10 November, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 10 November, 1997, 12:00am

Why is religious studies a compulsory subject in many schools in Hong Kong? One logical reason would be because these schools are of Catholic origin. But even if such a school has such a strong religious background, why is Christianity the only course being taught in the classroom? This totally contradicts the meaning of the subject title 'religious studies'.

Shouldn't religious studies be a study of all the major religions of the world, so as to broaden our religious and spiritual horizons? Many non-Chinese pupils study in Catholic schools, and many of them are not Christians.

Yet they are forced to study a subject that may question their own religion, influence their beliefs and maybe brainwash them to convert. A student in a lower form secondary school, has not yet fully matured and so cannot decide what religion is, or comprehend theories about who or what is God.

For a young person to be told that man evolved from our monkey-like ancestors, but at the same time, to be told that Adam and Eve were the first people created by God, is confusing. A child will have difficulty separating archaeological facts from what is possibly Biblical fiction.

Is it the responsibility of the parent to teach the child that the religion he learns in the classroom is not of his culture and that he should just ignore it? This is not an effective approach, because the student might lag behind in his work, because he takes no interest in what he is learning.

He questions himself and asks why he is learning something that is not essential to his life, because he has a religion, a faith, a vague understanding of what his religion is about.

I believe that the Education Department should take this matter seriously, as I believe that this feeling is universal amongst students who are non-Christians as well as Christians. Why should one specific religion be taught in class? Is the aim to help a student decide a career path in the field of religion? If so, why isn't it offered as an A-Level subject in schools? Finally, what is the point of teaching one religion in a classroom, and that too as a compulsory course? Isn't it about time that a student had the freedom of choice about what he thinks he wants to learn, at least at an intermediate secondary level (forms four to five). There are some very unhappy students out there.