03 SES 02 A, National Curriculum Development
One day, my nephew Ata asked me questions as “Why God may turn me into a stone? How does God do this? Does God dislike me? Metin took Arda’s pencil without permission; suddenly Arda said that God will turn him into a stone”. These questions shocked me into giving quick answer. I tried to cleanse of his negative thoughts about God by trying to pay attention his developmental stage. His following questions and his curiosity about God led me to focus on pupils’ understanding God and religion. Thereafter I decided to conduct a study in order to get pupils views about religion.
Considering the religion, it can be said that religion goes back to the beginning of the humans’ lives. Even there is a wide diversity of beliefs on religion, it is seen that religious views created based on ones wishes to take shelter, to feel confidence, to form an attachment or else to believe the supernatural. Religion is a universal, complex, and multifaceted term (Peet, 2005) and represents mythical practices or affirmations (Pals, 2006). Davie (2007) made a clarification as following:
There are two ways of defining religion […]. The first is substantive: it is concerned with what religion is. […] beliefs and practices which assume the existence of supernatural beings. The second approach is functional: it is concerned with what religion does and how it affects the society […] (p.19).
As seen in definitions, religion is a reality which affects ones psychological and sociological life. It can be said that religion is not just a belief of a human, since it has a crucial role in humans’ lives. Religion on the one hand explains such imaginative issues but on the other hand religion creates various quixotic questions. Moreover, religion has a role in shaping ones identity and a role in grasping identities together within a society (Lester, 2011).
In Turkish context, it is seen that religious education is given by parents and surroundings informally and by schools formally. Some studies (Kaya, 1997; Konuk, 1994 and Yılmaz, 2012) stated that knowledge gathered at childhood may shape their future beliefs and values. This means religious concepts introduced and formed at childhood and then their created faith will be the basis of pupils’ lives. Therefore, it is important to consider pupils’ age, developmental stages and needs during religious education.
In Turkey, a compulsory course ‘Culture of Religion and Moral Knowledge’ is given at 4th grade of primary school in order to link religion and morality. By this course, pupils are aimed to get knowledge about characteristics of religion and information about character and morality. However, it seems it is the Ministry of National Education deciding the content of the course. Few studies about definition of religion and religion for young learners (Atik, 2015; Çakmak, 2013; Kaya, 1997; Konuk, 1994 and Yılmaz, 2012) and the lack of study focusing on getting the views on religion indicate that there is a hesitation to discuss religion and decide the design of the course based on stakeholders’ views in Turkish context. On the other hand, there are some studies in international context mostly focusing on religious education (Barnes, 2015; Colaliyeva, 2018; Miller and McKenna, 2011 and Teece, 2010). Taking into account of national and international literature, it seems that there is a need to listen pupils’ voices about religion and religious education. Getting their views could offer different ideas or views about religion. Moreover listening to pupils’ voice can enable to think about pupils’ needs in learning religion and meeting pupils’ expectations. Therefore, the main purpose of this study is to explore pupils’ views about religion and religious education.
METHOD This study aimed to find out pupils’ opinions about religion and religious education at primary school. According to this aim, this study is designed as qualitative research. A qualitative research is exploratory (Creswell, 2003), so that this design helped me to explore pupils’ views and feelings. The data was collected by focus group interview which helped to get various views through interactions within the group of several participants (Bryman, 2004). Sampling Purposive sampling method was used to choose the sampling. Therefore one primary school, which I got access to do the study, is purposively selected as it is believed that the pupils in this school can provide the data I need. According to Morgan (1988), purposive sampling method is useful for focus group interviews since it dependent on participants’ abilities and capacities to furnish information needed. The sampling of this study is comprised of two focus groups. Each group included six 4th grade pupils from the selected primary school. One reason for this selection is that these pupils started to take a course ‘Culture of Religion and Moral Knowledge’ by this grade. This means they have such formal ideas about religion and also can have their own understanding. The other reason is that my pilot studies with 3rd grade and 4th grade pupils showed me that 4th grade pupils on the one hand express their feelings or ideas more explicitly than 3rd grade pupils. On the other hand, these age group pupils have various images in their minds and also use different metaphors. Data Collection According to the aim of this study and the methodological way for reaching the aim, I decided to collect the data by focus group interviews. In this study focus group technique is used to help pupils to share their views and to support their talks. Additionally, this technique allows participants to have detail discussions about the topic within the group (Morgan, 1997).The pupils in focus group were asked mainly following questions: ‘how do you define a religion?’, ‘why do you make these explanations?’ ‘do you think religion is important in your life? And why do you think like this?’, ‘what do you think about religious education?’. Data analysis The focus group interviews were audio recorded to facilitate data analysis. The data is started to be analysed in terms of the rules of descriptive and content analysis method. The analysis process is still ongoing.
The preliminary findings showed that the pupils create their God according to their experiences. In addition to this, it was found that they had different ideas and definition religion. For instance, one of them said that “I don’t believe that religion is related with good behaviour. I saw on telly that one man killed his wife so think if he is Muslim so why he killed his wife?” This suggests that they could not connect the knowledge got from the school and outside the school. The preliminary results indicated that pupils did not want to afraid from religion. Some of them mentioned that their surroundings said them God would punish them when they made mistakes. Even pupils loved God (Allah); they had confusions in their minds. The results showed that pupils were faced with dilemma about learning religion. Additionally, most of the pupils thought that religious education was necessary. Some of them preferred to learn religion from teachers rather than learning religion from their parents and surroundings. For instance, one of them complained about his mother and said “every morning my mom tells me use your right hand and foot, say ‘Bismillahirrahmanirrahim’ before going out, don’t forget to say ‘Şükür’ and don’t tell lies”. He said that he tried to be a good child however he did not want his mother to repeat his duties every day. Another pupil stated that “they (mothers) think that we are good when we say ‘Bismillahirrahmanirahim’, they think that Allah loves only when we say these words. But I don’t think so. We have to be a good child, do our homework, and respect elder people. So Allah will love us.” On the other hand, most of the pupils mentioned that they wished to learn religion different from how they learned at the school.
Atik, A. (2015). Dini gelişim kuramlarına din eğitimi bağlamında genel bir bakış. 4(3), 728-743. Barnes, L. P. (2015). Religious studies, religious education and the aims of education, British Journal of Religious Education, 37:2, 195-206. Bryman, A. (2004). Social Research Methods. Oxford: University Press. Colaliyeva, C. (2018). Din öğretimi temelleri: Kırgızistan Örneği. Manas Sosyal Araştırmalar Dergisi, 7(3), 279-295. Creswell, J.W. (2003). Research Design Qualitative and Quantitative Approaches. (2nd Ed.) Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publication. Çakmak, F. (2013). Din eğitiminde program geliştirme ve aile faktörü, Iğdır Üniversitesi İlahiyat Fakültesi Dergisi, 1, 81-104. Davie, G. (2007). The Sociology of Religion. London: SAGE Publications. Kaya, M. (1997). Ailede Anne- Baba Tutumlarının Çocuğun Kişilik Gelişimi ve Benlik Gelişimindeki Rolü. On Dokuz Mayıs İlahiyat Fakültesi Dergisi, 9, 193-204. Konuk, Y. (1994). Okul Öncesi Çocuklarda Dini Duygunun Gelişim ve Din Eğitimi, Ankara: TDV Yayınları. Lester, E. (2011). Teaching about religions: A democratic approach for public schools. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press. Miller, J. & McKenna, U. (2011). Religion and religious education: comparing and contrasting pupils’ and teachers’ views in an English school, British Journal of Religious Education, 33:2, 173-187. Morgan, D. L. (1997). Focus Groups as Qualitative Research. UK: SAGE Publications. Morgan, D. L. (1998). The Focus Group Guidebook-Focus Group Kit 1. UK: SAGE Publications. Pals, D. L. (2006). Eight Theories of Religion (2nd ed.). New York: Oxford University Press. Peet, C. (2005). Defining religion: Strategies and reflections on an elusive figure. Journal of Psychology & Christianity, 24(2), 105-112. Teece, G. (2010) Is it learning about and from religions, religion or religious education? And is it any wonder some teachers don’t get it?, British Journal of Religious Education, 32:2, 93-103. Yılmaz, S. (2012). 8-13 yaş çocuklarda bilimsel gelişiminde “Ölüm Kavramı”, C.Ü. İlahiyat Fakültesi Dergisi, XVI (1), 9-42.
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