Multiculturalism in religious education in Cyprus : the educational reform : between the previous and the present curriculum

Krasia, Maria (2019) Multiculturalism in religious education in Cyprus : the educational reform : between the previous and the present curriculum. (PhD thesis), Kingston University, .


In spite of the recent reform of the curriculum, Religious Education (RE) in Cyprus remains confessional and it is dominated by the Greek Orthodox Church, reflecting the island’s history of occupation, colonization and partition and the need to promote national unity amongst a presumed-to-be homogeneous population, with imperatives for nation-building superseding concerns with the island’s historic cultural diversity. However, a series of changes, broadly since Cyprus’ independence in 1960 but especially since 2000, present challenges to this confessional RE. Therefore, the aim of this PhD thesis is to assess the implications of changes in Greek-Cypriot society for the provision of RE in Greek-Cypriot primary schools, and to identify ways of addressing the challenges posed by these changes; and especially to respond to the increasingly multicultural character of Cyprus. At the same time, it aims to provide some suggestions as to how RE can be reformed along the lines of multiculturalism in order to promote the reconciliation of the island and to encourage students’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development. This thesis primarily considers the way RE is taught in Cyprus, but at the same time it examines the RE curricula frameworks of other European countries, since Cyprus is a part of the European Union and thus, shares similar visions and challenges with them. For the conduction of this PhD thesis, a combination of quantitative and qualitative methods were applied. However, the main research tool was a RE booklet which was developed by the researcher and it was used as an additional teaching material which aimed to reform students’ knowledge, views and attitudes about a variety of topics. This PhD research has revealed that some of students’ knowledge, views and attitudes regarding different spiritual, moral, social, and cultural issues have been enriched and changed, in some way, after being taught from the RE Booklet. Most of their original misconceptions and false knowledge have also been successfully redressed. However, their views and attitudes towards the minority community of Cyprus, Turkish-Cypriots, have not been changed, and this reveals that a systematic effort needs to be made in order to change well-embedded confessional views. Another finding was that the majority of Greek-Cypriot students, teachers and educators prefer a more multicultural RE rather than a confessional one, but there are some reservations which need to be addressed before putting this into practice. These include: the Church of Cyprus’ preference for a confessional RE, its influence on the educational system, the confessional teaching material, the inadequate guidance and support offered to teachers by the Ministry of Education and individual prejudices towards people of different cultural and religious origins. This research has also revealed that the three representatives from the religious minorities of Cyprus (Maronite/Armenian/Turkish-Cypriot) believe that the majority of Greek-Cypriot teachers have very negative attitudes towards religious and cultural diversity, and so they are unwilling to promote multicultural education within their classrooms. They also perceive the Greek-Cypriot community as being more nationalistic and religiously fundamentalist than their own communities. Finally, this PhD thesis has reached the conclusion that the integration of citizenship and religious education can promote intercultural dialogue which will help individuals to coexist, cooperate, understand and respect each other. However, the Cypriot society is not prepared yet for a radical change in the way RE is taught. Therefore, it is a better option initially to combine confessional and multicultural RE; to orient RE to multiculturalism, and not to change radically the way that RE is taught, because that would provoke adverse reaction. At the same time, the Ministry of Education has an instrumental role to play in improving RE; it needs to seriously take into consideration the presence of non-Orthodox children attending schools, to correct students’ misconceptions and combat their social and religious prejudices, to encourage assessment for learning and to ensure that education is free of political interests and Church influences.

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