Headmasters’ Conceptions of the Finnish Religious Education
Solution from the Perspective of Human Rights
Nyckelord:RELIGIOUS EDUCATION (RE), HUMAN RIGHTS, FINLAND, HEADMASTERS, FREEDOM OF RELIGION, QUALITATIVE INTERVIEWS
There has been much discussion about the most suitable model of religious education (RE hereafter) in public schools all around Europe. The Finnish model of RE has attracted great interest, because in Finland RE is given according to one’s own religion. The Finnish model of RE is very unique and it emphasises the right of religious minorities to participate in RE according to their own religion in state-owned schools. In this article we examine headmasters’ conceptions of the current Finnish RE solution from the perspective of human rights. The study is based on qualitative interviews.
Headmasters presented both advantages and disadvantages of the current RE solution. These advantages are briefly: freedom of religion, an opportunity to get RE according to one ́s own religion, knowing one ́s own roots, an opportunity to understand people from different religious backgrounds and an opportunity to study other religions for those students who are not members of religious communities. The limits of the solution are that it puts students into their own religious groups and this limits possibilities for religious dialogue, which should be one of the key elements of modern RE. RE has a strong potential to promote human rights. It is important to discuss different models of arranging education from the viewpoint of human rights. The human rights viewpoint should be central when dealing with the aims, contents and organization structure of RE. Different interpretations of religious freedom and the right to religious education are important considerations especially for RE.