The Spanish legal system on RE
1. The principle of religious freedom.
2. The non-denominational of the state. It is non-denominational that is cooperative with religious freedom.
3. The principle of collaboration between the State and the Catholic Church and the rest of the religious confessions.
There is an “agreement on education and cultural matters” between the Spanish Sate and the Vatican. The agreements between the Spanish State and the Holy See that date from 1979 are international treaties. They were drawn up in accordance with constitutional and international precepts and their territorial sphere of application also covers the Autonomous Communities.
In 1992 co-operation agreements were established with the Federation of Evangelic Religious Entities in Spain, the Federation of Israeli Communities in Spain and the Islamic Commission of Spain. The right to receive religious instruction, as a basic aspect of integral education is a result of this constitutional right of persons by which the public powers are bound to guarantee education in its religious dimension. According to the Spanish Constitution, the aim of education will be the full development of the human personality. “The public powers guarantee the right of parents for their children to receive the religious and moral education that is in accord with their own convictions”. (Art. 27.3)
Religious and moral education, integrated into the school curriculum, helps in the educational objective of forming responsible, aware, critically-thinking, free persons; it provides pupils with elements on which to base their own personal autonomy; it capacitates them to respect and relate to other systems of belief that our present in our pluralistic society; it encourages a balance between the spiritual, psychological and cultural development of pupils, in their own historical context and environment; it helps them to understand the cultural and artistic heritage of Spain; it allows them to know the contents of the Christian Religious Culture. Meanwhile are attending with concern at campaigns of harassment against the subject of religion at school and its teachers on the part of groups that do not give importance to the religious culture and the possibility of knowing different religions at school, not respecting the effective legislation. More than 60% of parents ask for their children to receive instruction in the Catholic religion each year. It is necessary for religious education, as a parent’s right, to be included as an essential subject, that centres are obliged to offer and that is voluntary for pupils, as stipulated by law, so that the fact that a pupil receives this teaching or not, does not represent any academic discrimination in school activities.
Religious Education as a school subject
In terms of the meaning and scope of “Religious Education at School” (E.R.E.) this subject is differentiated from the catechesis. “We consider religious education as an ordinary school subject as it is a requirement in schools. We consider it to be confessional because, amongst other reasons, it is the parents’ right to educate their children according to their own convictions. And, finally, we conceive it as a synthesis of faith and culture offered to pupils, since it is an inseparable part of human education. (Pastoral guidelines for E.R.E. from the Episcopal Commission of Education and Catechesis, 1979).
Religious and moral education, integrated into the school curriculum, helps in the educational objective of forming responsible, aware, critically-thinking, free persons; it provides pupils with elements on which to base their own personal autonomy; it capacitates them to respect and relate to other systems of belief that our present in our pluralistic society; it encourages a balance between the spiritual, psychological and cultural development of pupils, in their own historical context and environment; it helps them to understand the cultural and artistic heritage of Spain; it allows the contents of the Catholic faith, which is the most frequent in Spain, to be structured and systemised.
The teaching of religion assumes the principles, objectives and methods of the school system. The objectives of religious culture, from a Christian point of view are:
- Encourage a space for dialogue between faith and culture, seeking areas for real human advancement.
- Give answers with regard to the ultimate meaning of life, with all of its ethical implications.
- Promote pupils’ questions and clarify those they consider and which have to be assumed as a free, personal choice.
- Provide a scale of values, a set of principles and attitudes that become specific forms of ethical behaviour and coexistence.
- Work towards its critical insertion in society.
- Know Spanish and European cultural tradition that is formed by beliefs, customs, rites, festivals and ways of life that are impregnated with Christianity and to transmit the wealth of our cultural heritage.
RE in the Spanish education system
The basic principles of the legal doctrine and the legal framework for the teaching of the subject of religion are as follows: At all levels of non-university education, public and private centres must offer the area/subject of Religion as an alternative subject. Pupils’ parents (or pupils themselves if they are of age) may freely and voluntarily opt for one type of instruction or another and change their choice, or not, in each academic year. In the Spanish democracy, the teaching of the Catholic religion has never been compulsory in schools.
Main innovations of LOMCE (2013) in regard to RE are that “Social and Civic Values” is introduced as a new alternative subject in primary school and so is “Ethical Values” in Secondary. Although pupils will be able to choose between religious education or taking “social and ethics values” classes in primary school and “ethical values” classes in secondary. As regards the subject of religion, it should be noted that the previous regulation will not be modified; it will be evaluated under the same terms as the substitute subject and will be used to calculate the average mark for students.
The system that the laws have contemplated most of the time includes the Catholic, Muslim, Evangelical and Jewish religions, and an alternative. In the Spanish democracy, the teaching of the Catholic religion has never been compulsory in schools. It is absolutely vital that the subject is properly resourced in every way. This means that a suitable amount of time should be devoted to RE. In Spain, APPRECE has concerns that these obligations are not being fully met. Some autonomous communities have reduce the curriculum time available to Religious Education. RE is not given the same status as other subject areas and consideration is not being given to the impact of reduced teaching time on RE teachers, who are working with indefinite contracts. Several Upper Court of Justice considers that the distribution of hours of RE established by several Regional Government is not according to the law. APPRECE has defending the teaching time in RE on the Court of Justice.
RE is necessary to prepare children and young people to live in a Spain which is increasingly diverse and to be able to take their appropriate place within their country, within Europe and within the wider world. RE is a voluntary option, which is not catechesis but an opportunity to explore and evaluate religious cultures and beliefs and allows them to interpret Spain’s rich history, its calendar and its cultural roots. Those of us who defend religious education do not seek to impose particular beliefs on anyone. For that reason, we urge all schools to give the subject its rightful place within the curriculum. We believe that all children and young people are entitled to receive Religious Education. It is vitally important for them to acquire a better understanding of the role that religions play in today’s pluralistic world. The need for such education will continue to grow as different cultures and identities interact with each other through h travel, commerce, media or migration. Although a deeper understanding of religions will not automatically lead to greater tolerance and respect, ignorance increases the likelihood of misunderstanding, stereotyping, and conflict.
Integrated curriculum: a solution for everyone
This is what APPRECE and the teachers it represents are seeking to provide in order to achieve a stability of the professionals of these educations, with the consensus of all the implied parts. We are expecting to reach a social and political agreement that could provide the wished stability of the educational system.
We stand up for an integrated approach of curriculum as a solution for everyone. The teaching of RE demands its alternative and the same academic rigor in the evaluation and, consequently, in the qualification. APPRECE defends for Primary and Secondary:
- Denominational RE (Catholic, Evangelical, Islamic and Jewish)
- Culture of Religions
- Common Values, with the same academic rigor and integrating Common Values in the Curricula of Confessional Religion and in that of Culture of Religions.
And in High School he defends: 1. Denominational Religion 2. Education for Citizenship and Human Rights
New curriculum of RE
The Spanish Episcopal Conference presents the new curriculum of the subject, which will also work on interiority, assume values such as respect, gratuity or reconciliation, learning to resolve conflicts peacefully, fighting poverty, violence or inequality between men and women, caring for the environment and discovering the interiority. New RE subject will be the drafts open to public consultation in orde to make the subject a tool to improve coexistence and promote cultural dialogue.
They do so within the framework of the development of the curricula of each subject that are part of of the LOMLOE (Organic Law of Modification of the LOE) approved in December 2020. In primary, the draft curriculum proposes that students acquire “habits for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, improving coexistence and caring for the planet.” It is also proposed that they develop “a Christian vision of interdependence, eco-dependence and interrelation” and “become aware of unjust social situations and develop attitudes of solidarity and mercy to create environments of pleasant and inclusive coexistence.”
With the aim that students “learn to inhabit a plural world”, the prelates also propose that the subject helps them “develop respect for multiculturalism and religious diversity” and that they “be able to appreciate and analyze works of art, musical compositions, and architectural constructions representative of other cultures and religions”. Encourage coexistence, for Secondary, it aims for young people between 12 and 16 years old to be able to “establish a dialogue between faith and science” and to participate “critically in the construction of cultural diversity, creatively expressing and contributing their own experiences, respecting the differences between people and communities”. They also suggest that students can promote “social coexistence in plural contexts respecting personal options and creating spaces for dialogue and encounter”.
This report was written and updated by José Maria Guardia, the EFTRE representative for Spain. October 2021