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FINNUT-Forskning og innovasjon i utdanningssektoren

Non-formal faith education, the public school, and religious minorities in Norway

Alternative title: Ikke-formell trosopplæring, offentlig skole og religiøse minoriteter i Norge

Awarded: NOK 11.9 mill.

The FAITHED project studies children and youth with a religious minority background in Norway. It will explore their relationship to faith education within their own religious communities and the inclusive and non-confessional religious education of public schools. What are the characteristics of faith education within these religious communities? How do the children and youth themselves relate to and negotiate the relationship between this education and the subject KRLE (Knowledge of Christianity, Religion, Philosophies of life and Ethics) taught in public schools? How do public schools meet students from religious minorities? And how do students in public schools consider religious and life-stance plurality? These are the main questions the FAITHED project will address. The field is complex and poorly researched. The project concentrates on the two most numerous religious minorities in Norway: Muslim communities and the Roman Catholic Church. Both have a large proportion of members with immigrant backgrounds. An important aspect of the study concerns geographical differences. Much of the research on minorities in Norway has had an urban focus. Being Catholic or Muslim in a rural area may be a rather different experience. The project will collect data from both Eastern and Western Norway, and from urban as well as rural areas. The project period spans four years, 2021–2025. Four institutions are project partners: Inland Norway University of Applied Sciences (INN), Volda University College, Peace Research Institute Oslo, and KIFO Institute for Church, Religion, and Worldview Research. The interdisciplinary research team includes twelve scholars from religious studies, education studies and social studies, among them two PhD candidates. The project leader Anders Aschim is a professor of religious education at INN. An international advisory board consisting of experts from Sweden, Denmark, Germany and the United Kingdom is also attached to the project.

Muslim “Quran schools” are probably the most well-known, and most debated, example of the phenomenon of non-formal faith education among religious minorities in Europe. However, most faith communities have their equivalents. Many students in Norwegian public schools take part in faith education programmes of religious minorities in their spare time, most often run by local religious communities. Most participants are children and youth with an immigrant background. However, knowledge about the extent, content and implementation of non-formal religious education among minority groups is largely non-existent. The FAITHED project seeks to address this significant knowledge gap on faith education among minorities, as an integral dimension of the landscape of education and religious diversity spanning formal and non-formal education institutions. The FAITHED project will conduct comparative studies of faith education within religious communities belonging to Roman Catholicism and Islam, the two most numerous religious minorities in Norway, in both urban and rural settings, and studies in public schools with a diverse student population in the same settings. Research questions: 1. What are the purpose, content and methods of non-formal faith education in Roman Catholic and Muslim settings in Norway, and how is this education organised in urban and rural communities? 2. How do students involved in non-formal faith education programmes understand and negotiate the relationship between faith community-based and school-based religious education? 3. How do public schools meet students of religious minority background, and how (if at all) do schools relate to the phenomenon of non-formal faith education? 4. How do students in Norwegian public schools reflect on religious and life-stance diversities? Methods: Observation in teaching settings; interviews, including photo elicitation interviews; focus groups; analysis of student materials, documents and educational materials.

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FINNUT-Forskning og innovasjon i utdanningssektoren