Can religious education improve behaviour?


THERE is growing concern about the breakdown in discipline and respect in our society which has affected everyone and if not addressed soon will affect the future.
It seems everyone is taking a knee-jerk or reactive rather than looking at a proactive approach to dealing with the situation.
Law and order issues are on the rise, social ills, decline in ethical standard, decline in morality, increase in domestic drug and abuse and the list goes on.
How these concerns are addressed is becoming a dilemma as whatever tactics and approaches currently used is not delivering the expected results.
This week, Chief Secretary to Government Isaac Lupari was reported as suggesting that religious education should be a compulsory subject in the school system.
One may wonder how religious education fits into a society that is already crumpling under social issues.
Religious education makes a distinctive contribution to the school curriculum by developing pupils’ knowledge and understanding of religion, religious beliefs, practices, language and traditions and their influence on individuals, communities, societies and cultures.
Papua New Guinea is a Christian country and Christianity is defined in our constitution but sadly that does not translate
into what is happening in the society.
Lupari said what we are doing today will not address the root cause of these social problems in the country.
“The root causes are lack of discipline and respect for our culture and respect for our laws.”
He says religious education is a solution.
Reading through what he talked about does make sense, if we introduce or make religious education as a compulsory as science and mathematics, we will produce an educated population based on discipline, respect, integrity and value for each other.
In a few years, this will have an impact on our society that is positive – we will have fewer social ills, law and order problems and, more importantly, increase in economic prosperity.
We just have to look at the experiences of other countries around the world when they institutionalised religious education into their education system and workplace.
They have a disciplined population, self-respect for one aother, integrity, and respect for laws, peace and harmony in their communities. And they have witnessed high economic growth, social order, law and order and improvement on the quality of lives of the people.
Lupari believes PNG will achieve the same results if we adopt religious education as a compulsory subject.
Successive governments, ministers and even churches have looked at this mess, considered the complications, and concluded that any change would be more trouble than it was worth.
However, the time is now here for principled and decisive action.
Respect and tolerance are values that cannot be taught only in the classroom.
They have to permeate the life of a school, and indeed of a society, if they are to be learned.
But there is, nonetheless, a place in the classroom where they can be taught and thought about, and in a multifaith and multicultural society religious education should provide that space.
Education is such an important part of growing up, and supporting that growth through strong Christian values creates confident, accomplished and well-rounded children.
Religious children will be influenced by their environment to be good and caring citizens.
Using religious reasons to constrict children’s behaviour will enable them to learn to care for others, and they will grow up to be desirable citizens who will do their best for society.