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Religious Education as a Learning Area
Religious education is taught in many schools. As a learning area, religious education focuses on helping develop an understanding and imparting knowledge of the Gospel. This is regulated by the guidelines of the Catholic Church. Religious education is the premier learning area in any Catholic school curriculum. Religious education becomes the premier learning area in any Catholic school curriculum because the classroom activity serves as an avenue through which the Word can be ministered. This is different from other learning areas because the classroom activity is an act of evangelization (CECWA, 2004).
As a learning area, catechesis offers experiences when teaching religious education in order to deepen the faith of the learners. As a learning area, religious education is an apprenticeship in the formation of a Christian that takes place throughout the span of one’s life. Under this learning area, the ultimate aim of catechesis involves putting people both in touch and in intimacy and communion with Jesus Christ. As a learning area, religious education is similar to catechesis and Christian witness in that it proclaims the divine power that is inherent in the Message of God (CECWA, 2004).
Additionally, religious education as a learning area helps the learners to understand the teachings and the message in the gospel as it is taught by the Catholic Church. Religious education as a learning area also helps the learners to deeply understand the nature of Christianity and a sense of how the Christians lead their lives. Finally, religious education as a learning area serves to illustrate to the non-Christians the mystery of Jesus Christ (CECWA, 2004).
The Relationship of Religious Education with other Elements of Evangelization in a Catholic School
Evangelization is the process through which ongoing conversion of people to get them to turn towards Jesus Christ is promoted. The Catholic school is a privileged environment where Christian education is imparted in the learners. In this way, the Catholic school takes part in evangelizing the Word of God and the mission of the Catholic Church. The process of evangelization is not one-dimensional. Given that it occurs within the place, time and reality of people who are involved, there are two fundamental principles; ministry of the Gospel and Christian witnesses. As the first element in evangelizing, Christina witness leads to questioning and curiosity regarding eh relevance and nature in which Christians lead their lives (McMahon, 2012).
Christian witness is concerned with promoting justice, social good, helping the poor, destitute and needy and promoting peace. Christian witness is seen through the work of Christians and the vibrancy of their lives. The other element of evangelization is ministry of the gospel. Through this element, evangelization is achieved through the communication of the work of God by the priesthood of the laity and the ministerial priesthood. This is also achieved by raising awareness of the message of Christ through primary proclamation. Evangelism through this element is also achieved by way of nurturing the young faith in converted Christians through initiatory, catechesis, teachings of the church, sacrament, and liturgical events (McMahon, 2012).
Religious education has a fundamental relationship with these elements of evangelization. Catholic schools are the manifestations of the Catholic Church, and as such, Catholic schools have a fundamental relationship with evangelization. The religious education taught in catholic schools help in evangelizing the mission of the Catholic Church through Christina witness, worship, ministry of the gospel and welfare. This is through raising religious awareness of the Catholic Church, promoting and sustaining an interest in the gospel and the message contained therein, encouraging and nurturing faith in the basic teachings of Jesus Christ and promoting the continuous conversion of people to the ways of Jesus Christ and helping and nurturing them so that they can develop an intimate relationship with God (McMahon, 2012).
Key Theological and Pedagogical Principles by which Religious Education is Taught
The religious education is taught in Catholic schools under the guidance of various theological and pedagogical principles. These principles are as follows:
Religious education does not supersede the catechesis that is offered in schools, families and at the parish level. In fact religious education is complementary to the Catechesis that is offered in schools, families and at the parish level (CECWA, 2004).
The religious education program that is taught in the Catholic schools in any parish is the program that is considered and approved by the Bishop of the diocese. This means that religious education programs can vary from one diocese to another depending on what is promulgated by the Bishop of the diocese (CECWA, 2004).
Even in imparting religious education, the parents of the learners are the primary educators of their children, especially when it comes to faith education. Catholic schools are entitled to respect this principle (CECWA, 2004).
As a learning area, religious education curriculum should be developed, resourced and taught with a commitment similar to the other learning areas in Catholic schools (CECWA, 2004).
Religious education should serve the process of evangelization by ensuring that the needs of the learners form the basis and foundation of learning and teaching (CECWA, 2004).
In teaching religious education, the educators will relate the understanding and knowledge of the Catholic faith to the real life experiences and situations of the learners (CECWA, 2004).
The teachers who are tasked with teaching religious education should be committed Catholics an offer active Christian witness to the beliefs of the Catholic Church (CECWA, 2004).
As an area of learning, religious education should always proclaim the beliefs and practices of the Catholic Church within the context of salvation and the belief that only God can fully satisfy the needs of the hearts of human beings (CECWA, 2004).
Catholic Education Commission of Western Australia. (2004). Religious education. Retrieved from http://internet.ceo.wa.edu.au/ReligiousEducationCurriculum/Documents/ Policy%202B5%20Religious%20Education.pdf
McMahon, G. (2012). Section 2 Religious Education and the Catholic School. Retrieved from http://www.ceosand.catholic.edu.au/component/docman/cat_view/81-catholic- identity/83-source-of-life/88-core-document.html?Itemid=144
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