Bulletin of the Graduate School of Education, Hiroshima University. Part 1, Learning and curriculum development Issue 68
2019-12-20 発行

Teachers and Ethics: Developing religious self-awareness

Delakorda Kawashima, Tinka
Responding to the growing internationalization of schools in Japan, a debate arose among scholars of religious studies on the possible contribution of religion for developing the intercultural skills in education. Some had argued that religious education would promote intercultural understanding (Inoue 2011); others warned it could facilitate nationalistic ideologies (Fujiwara 2007). In the meantime, however, since 2018 and 2019 ethics (doutoku) became an official (graded) subject in elementary and junior high schools nationwide. Although teaching ethics seems less controversial than teaching about religion, it is believed to be challenging to teach and grade ethics objectively as the teachers’ knowledge, beliefs and values can have a significant impact on children’s moral development. This article introduces an approach that makes religion a factor in education, promoting understanding of different beliefs and values. The author developed an interview about religious awareness and asked future elementary school teachers to answer them. The questions were mainly focused on beliefs in the existence of gods, kami, Buddha, ancestor spirits, heaven; visiting graves and carrying talismans; and their images about religions (Shinto, Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, New religions), etc. After answering the questions, the students compared their answers with others in their group, and finally, with the statistical data from a public survey. The results revealed students’ lack of awareness about their own culture and (non)religiousness. Besides that, the interview process itself proved useful as it helped teachers become aware of their existing knowledge and experience with religion. Also, as teachers themselves conducted the interviews, they noticed significant differences among each other. In teacher’s training programs, such “self-reflective learning”, taken from the sociological study of religion, could be used to spark future teachers’ interest in their historical roots, beliefs and values and enhance their understanding of multiple dimensions of religion as a step toward achieving multicultural competence.
public schools
teacher training
religious awareness