• Wolfram Weisse Stellenbosch University
Keywords: Religious education, Hamburg, Religious curricula, Religious construction


I personally regard this proposal [the introduction of Islamic religious instruction in North-Rhine/Westphalia] as an important impulse for the present discussion about the demands and reality of a society in which people from many nations live together according to the principles of solidarity and tolerance.  Indeed, the question must be asked how the religious and cultural identity of substantial minorities can be preserved adequately in our country.  On the other hand – and I say that in the face of a more integrative approach which we strive for in religious education at schools in Hamburg – we may not ignore the danger of cultural fragmentation.  This dictum of the Minister of Education of Hamburg summarizes, in a nutshell, the challenges facing religious education in Germany.  At the same time, she indicates that the answers to the question differ significantly.  Since school and education policy in the Federal Republic of Germany is not determined on a central level, but falls within the jurisdiction of the respective education ministries of the 16 Länder, the point of departure for education varies from state to state.  In almost all Länder, except Hamburg, religious instruction is taught separately according to confession, i.e. either as Protestant or as Catholic.  In practice, this means that Catholic pupils are taught by a Catholic teacher with Catholic-oriented teaching material, and Protestant pupils are taught by a Protestant teacher with Protestant-oriented teaching materials.  The structure principle is aimed at Christian-confessional homogeneity.  Pupils should grow into their faith.  Those, however, who are not included (e.g. the Catholic minority in the Protestant north, or the Protestant minority in the Catholic southern part of Germany and, other than these, all pupils of other religions, and atheists) must leave the classroom.  The price of homogeneity in religious education is high: it exists to the exclusion of others.  This mechanism, which exists in most of the Länder, is only modified in that parents have the right to withdraw their children, up to 14 years of age, from religious education, and thereafter, pupils have the choice to attend religious instruction of the other confession or, to choose, as an alternative school subject, Ethics/Philosophy.  The possibility of withdrawal and selection of an alternative also exists in Hamburg.  Contrary to the confessionalist approach, a different approach has evolved in the federal state of Hamburg: here religious instruction is taught to all pupils integratively, and their respective confessional, religious or ideological background plays no role.

Author Biography

Wolfram Weisse, Stellenbosch University
Centre of Contextual HermeneuticsUniversity of Stellenbosch