An easy A or a question of belief: pupil attitudes to Catholic religious education in Croatiaby Boris Jokić, Linda Hargreaves

British Journal of Religious Education

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Year
2014
DOI
10.1080/01416200.2014.905451
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Education / Religious studies

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An easy A or a question of belief: pupil attitudes to Catholic religious education in Croatia

Boris Jokića & Linda Hargreavesb a Centre for Educational Research and Development, Institute for

Social Research in Zagreb, Zagreb, Croatia b Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK

Published online: 28 Apr 2014.

To cite this article: Boris Jokić & Linda Hargreaves (2015) An easy A or a question of belief: pupil attitudes to Catholic religious education in Croatia, British Journal of Religious Education, 37:1, 4-19, DOI: 10.1080/01416200.2014.905451

To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/01416200.2014.905451

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An easy A or a question of belief: pupil attitudes to Catholic religious education in Croatia

Boris Jokića* and Linda Hargreavesb aCentre for Educational Research and Development, Institute for Social Research in Zagreb, Zagreb, Croatia; bFaculty of Education, University of Cambridge,

Cambridge, UK

This paper describes the results of a mixed model research that, as the first of its kind, aimed to determine the nature of, and underlying factors influencing, Croatian elementary pupils’ attitudes towards confessional

Catholic religious education (RE). Analyses of the questionnaire responses of the eighth-grade pupils from the stratified sample of schools revealed generally positive attitudes towards confessional RE as well as homogeneity with respect to academic achievement and higher estimations of girls. Qualitative analyses offered more critical pupil perspectives on RE and its delivery. From the triangulation of the data, three separate elements emerged as the foundation of the attitudes towards RE. The first and primary influence is the exposure to religious sentiment and values from their families. Secondly, pupil attitudes are affected by their own personal development and a growing ability to critically observe the world around them. Finally, the methods through which RE is delivered and assessed also serve as a strong contributor to pupils’ attitudes. The voices of pupils demand an adoption of a more dialectical approach to teaching and learning, and lesser reliance on catechesis which could reflect positively on the attitudes of all pupils, and especially of those who are most critical of the subject.

Keywords: confessional religious education; attitudes; pupil voice

Introduction

In the 1991–1992 school year, Catholic religious education (RE) was introduced into the Croatian state education system.1 Based on some of the existing models of classification, RE in Croatian compulsory education can be characterised as ‘education into religion’ (Hull 2001), denominational in its approach (Schreiner 2002), or explicit and confessional (Ashton 2000).

From a Croatian Catholic theological stance, Razum (2008) defines it as a strictly confessional model or ‘school catechesis’. Children in Croatia start compulsory schooling at an average age of seven and are offered RE as an *Corresponding author. Email: boris@idi.hr © 2014 Christian Education

British Journal of Religious Education, 2015

Vol. 37, No. 1, 4–19, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/01416200.2014.905451

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D ec em be r 2 01 4 elective subject from the first grade onwards. Once chosen, the attendance of the subject becomes obligatory for pupils throughout compulsory education up to the eighth grade (age 14). In each grade, 70 teaching hours are devoted to RE per year. Teachers of RE may be either members of the clergy or lay theologians specifically approved by the Catholic Church. In 2006, 87.7% of elementary school pupils attended RE (ibid.), a percentage that is reflective of the religiosity of the general population, where 86.3% of the Croatian populace identified themselves as Catholic in the 2011 census.

Arguably, although RE is an elective subject in Croatian elementary education, both the very high percentage of pupils attending the subject and its ‘obligatory’ character render its ‘electiveness’ somewhat relative.

This paper presents pupils’ perspectives regarding RE based on a largescale questionnaire survey and, more importantly, through the pupils’ own words from an in-depth longitudinal school case study. As the first of its kind in the Croatian context, this study aimed to determine the nature of, and underlying factors influencing, Croatian elementary pupils’ attitudes towards confessional Catholic RE. Fundamental to the study was a wish to understand pupils’ experience of the educational process and the curricular content they encounter in RE classes. In doing so, it raises questions as to the effectiveness of, and the justification for, RE’s place in the curriculum. We begin with a brief historical section to contextualise the issues to be presented.