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2009-08-22
Religion in Russian schools
"SPIRITUAL-MORAL TRAINING" TO BE REQUIRED IN SCHOOLS IN THREE YEARS

A new academic discipline, "Spiritual-moral Training" will be included in the required school curriculum in three years. Prior to that it will be taught in a number of regions on an experimental basis, Minister of Education and Science Andrei Fursenko told Interfax. "In three years this subject should become a basic part of the educational standard," the minister said.

He recalled that within the parameters of this subject, teaching will be conducted along three directions: foundations of religious culture, foundations of one of the traditional religions, or foundations of secular ethics. A pupil will be required to select one of these directions.

A. Fursenko emphasized that the subject will begin being taught, on an experimental basis, in the schools in the fourth quarter of the fourth grade and the first quarter of the fifth grade.

"We are not going to go to the mat with anybody on this. If in some region they want to postpone introduction of this subject, we will postpone it," he noted.

A. Fursenko reported that during the experimental period the subject will be included in the "regional component" of the school curriculum: "nowhere will this subject be introduced at the expense of the basic part of the academic program."

The head of the Ministry of Education and Science stressed that the plan for teaching this subject is still being prepared, "while the main principles are that the subject must be interesting and must be secular."

He said that the main task in the near future is to provide training of teaching personnel for this subject and to produce textbooks.

In Fursenko's opinion, there will be no problem with personnel. "Today teachers have an interest in finding additional work." In addition, he added, "money is needed for training teachers."

Fursenko thinks that "at the level of a regional subject, teaching 'Spiritual-Moral Training' in the schools should be partially financed out of the federal budget." "We should not forget that in the future this subject will be included in the educational standards," the minister said, noting at the same time that "money in the federal budget for this purpose will not be easy to find."

Publication of textbooks does not bother Fursenko a bit. "Textbooks will be financed by the publishers themselves. They have an interest in this," he said.

Source: Portal-credo.ru, 18 August 2009 (tr. by PDS, posted 18 August 2009)

Implementing Russian president's experiment for teaching religion
NOVOSIBIRSK PROVINCIAL AUTHORITIES WANT TO INTRODUCE COURSES ON FOUNDATIONS OF RELIGIOUS CULTURE IN SCHOOLS

Novosibirsk province has submitted to the Ministry of Education and Science of the Russian Federation a bid to participate in an experiment for introducing an educational course "Spiritual and moral culture," the "Taiga.info" site reports. It is possible that by April 2010 pupils in the fourth grade, and later the fifth grade, who so wish will be studying foundations of religious culture, a worker in the Department of Information of the administration of Novosibirsk province told "Taiga.info" on 12 August.

"An exact list of the criteria for the choice of participants in the experiment has not been published. Whether Novosibirsk province will be included will become known in September. However even if our bid were accepted, classes in religious culture will not be mandatory for every pupil," the deputy director of the provincial Department of Education, Vladimir Shchukin, explained. "Their attendance will be voluntary and a child and his parents have the right to decide for themselves whether to participate in the experiment or not."

Vladimir Shchukin said that the content has already been worked out and teachers (as a rule these are teachers of history, social studies, and literature) have been trained on the campus of the Novosibirsk Institute of Continuing Education and Retraining of Education Workers.

The Ministry of Education and Science has the responsibility of providing all participants in the experiment the necessary methodological designs.

Source: Portal-credo.ru, 14 August 2009 (tr. by PDS, posted 15 August 2009)

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STUDY OF ORTHODOX CULTURE IN ELEMENTARY SCHOOLS WILL BE DONE AT EXPENSE OF RUSSIAN LANGUAGE

A working meeting of the chairman of the Synodal Department of Religious Education and Catechesis of the Russian Orthodox church of the Moscow patriarchate, Bishop of Zaraisk Merkurii, with the academic director of the group of developers of the federal state educational standards of general education, corresponding member of the Russian Academy of Education, A.M. Kondakov, was held 7 August 2009 in the offices of the synodal department, according to the site of the department.

The meeting was attended by representatives of the Commission on Teaching Orthodox Culture and Spiritual-Moral Education of the synodal department.

A.M. Kondakov acquainted Bishop Merkurii with the standard of scientific general education that has been developed, according to which the voluntary study of Orthodox culture in elementary school is expected to involve one hour per week in the second semester of the fourth grade. This will be combined with a corresponding reduction of class time in the Russian language.

Bishop Merkurii emphasized that the new curriculum should provide the possibility of studying Orthodox culture in each grade of the elementary schools. Otherwise it might complicate the situation in coming years where many schools, in which Foundations of Orthodox Culture already are being taught to children in grades one through four, will be forced to interrupt it. Such a prospect could cause tensions within society and pose a threat to providing academic subjects of spiritual and moral contents in accordance with the decision of Russian President D.A. Medvedev, which he announced at a conference with leaders of traditional religions of Russia on 21 July 2009.

On the part of the church, a positive aspect was noted in that the developers of the new standard included in the academic plan the study of spiritual and moral culture as one of the forms of extracurricular activity for students in the afternoon. However this cannot compensate for the exclusion of the possibility of studying subjects of religious culture and ethics throughout the whole time of a pupil's elementary education in the form of school classes as a fundamental portion of the curriculum. The developers of the standards were given specific suggestions regarding the creation of the academic program providing the possibility of teaching subjects of religious culture and ethics in all years of the elementary schools, without reduction of the course load in Russian language.

As a result of the discussion that was held it was recognized that it is necessary to continue consultations on the matter of the devotion of class time to subjects of religious culture and ethics in elementary schools, with the participation of representatives of the Ministry of Education and Science of Russia.

Source; Portal-credo.ru, 13 August 2009 (tr. by PDS, posted 15 August 2009)

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Russian president promotes teaching religion in schools
HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS OF RUBLES TO FINANCE TEACHING RELIGIOUS CULTURE IN RUSSIAN SCHOOLS

After a conference with the president of Russia, the Russian Minister of Education reported that hundreds of millions of rubles will be directed to the introduction of foundations of religious culture in Russian schools.

The introduction of a system of teaching the foundations of religious cultures in Russian schools will cost hundreds of millions of rubles, Russian Minister of Education and Science Andrei Fursenko told journalists on 21 July, as a result of a special conference with the president of the country.

According to the minister, in the process of implementing this idea, more that 40,000 teachers will be retrained, RIA Novosti reports.

"The scale of the money is hundreds of millions of rubles," he said. "But this money will not be wasted," the minister emphasized, adding that even without the introduction of new subjects teachers still must go through retraining, which permits the improvement of the quality of instruction.

The minister reported that at the first stage 12,000 schools in 18 regions will be involved, which is a fifth of all schools in Russia.

In preparing the new curriculum, according to Fursenko, consideration will be given, first, to the secular nature of education and, second, to the fact that "all materials must be acceptable to representatives of all confessions, as well as atheists."

"We must create conditions under which the children will be able themselves to formulate their own world views; these are not religion courses and we must not offend or embarrass anyone," the minister stressed.

He said that the instruction must not be conducted from a position that all religions are a myth. "This would be offensive to representatives of one or another confession," Fursenko emphasized.

At the same time the minister stressed that the government does not have the right to rush into anything since this is a very complex subject and the main principle is to do no harm. He added, too, that the system of evaluation will be the same as for any other subject.

"Even if it is a textbook on Orthodoxy that is prepared, representatives of all confessions will express their impressions," Fursenko said.

Source: Portal-credo.ru, 21 July 2009 (tr. by PDS, posted 15 August 2009)

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PATRIARCH KIRILL PARTICIPATES IN CONFERENCE OF RELIGIOUS LEADERS AND GOVERNMENT MINISTERS WITH RUSSIAN PRESIDENT

Patriarch of Moscow and all-Rus Kirill participated in a conference conducted by Russian President D.A. Medvedev, which was held at the residence of the president in the suburbs of Moscow on 21 July. The topic of the conference, according to a report of the press service of the Moscow patriarchate, was questions of the teaching in secondary schools of the foundations of religious culture and secular ethics as well as the introduction into the armed forces of Russia of the institutions of army and navy chaplains.

The conference was held at the "Barvikha" state residence and included the director of the presidential administration of Russia, S.E. Haryshkin, the first deputy director of the Russian presidential administration, V.Yu. Surkov, Russian Minister of Defense A.E. Serdiukov, Russian Minister of Education and Science A.A. Fursenko, the head of the Buddhist Traditional Sangkha of Russia, Damba Aiusheev, the chairman of the Coordinating Center of Muslims of the Northern Caucasus, Mufti of Karachaevo-Cherkesia Ismail Berdiev, the chairman of the Council of Muftis of Russia Ravil Gainutdin, the chairman of the Central Ecclesiastical Board of Muslims of Russia, Talgat Tadzhuddin and the chief rabbi of Russia Berl Lazar.

Opening the meeting, Medvedev reported that he had received two appeals from leaders of religious associations. One of them dealt with the question of teaching the foundations of religious culture in secondary schools and the second was the introduction of the institution of army chaplains into the armed forces of Russia.

As the president noted, these topics deserve careful attention and an immediate response on the part of the government. At the same time Medvedev stressed especially the importance of a religious component in education and military training, which exerts a substantial influence on the formation of the person and Russian citizen.

"I have made the decision to support both of these suggestions," the head of the Russian state declared.

Commenting on the first question placed on the conference agenda, D.A. Medvedev emphasized that in many regions of the country substantial experience in teaching the foundation of religious culture has been acquired, which simplifies the accomplishment of this task on the federal level. As regards the Ministry of Defense of RF, the president said that for a long time already it has been cooperating fruitfully with the main religious associations of Russia.

At the same time, Medvedev gave special attention to the fact that every normative act regulating questions dealt with at the conference must go through public discussion, since the decisions made by it touch upon an extremely delicate sphere of human individual and social life.

"I think it necessary to conduct an experiment in teaching the foundations of religious culture in 18 regions," the president declared.

The head of state noted that pupils and their parents will be able to select the confessional subject themselves, the foundations of Orthodox, Muslim, Jewish, or Buddhist culture. Also, Medvedev suggests, there may be worked out a general course on the history of religions of Russia. In addition, the president pointed to the necessity of giving those desiring it the right to study the foundations of secular ethics.

"The selection of the pupils and parents must be voluntary. Any compulsion in this sphere will be counterproductive," Medvedev noted.

The president indicated that the foundations of religious culture will be taught by secular pedagogues, but at the same time the necessity will be recognized of having broad experience of the methodological, conceptual, and other achievements that have been acquired by the traditional confessions of Russia.

As a result of the experiment being conducted, the practice of teaching of these disciplines will be able to extend to the entire country, the president emphasized. In the opinion of the head of state, the proposed date for beginning the universal introduction into school curricula of the foundations of religious culture and secular ethics could be designated as 2012.

As regards the second question discussed at the conference, the president stressed that among the armed forces personnel of Russians there are adherents of all traditional confessions of the country. "They risk what is most dear, their lives. And they all have the right to spiritual support in accordance with their own religious convictions," the head of state noted.

As one variant of the resolution of the question, D.A. Medvedev suggested introducing a standard according to which in those units where followers of a certain confession constitute more than 10 percent of the personnel, it would be appropriate for clergy representing it to be on the staff.

"I think that your position is an example that it is possible to achieve consensus on contentious questions. Very correct conclusions have been drawn from many years of discussion," Patriarch Kirill emphasized in his speech. The primate of RPTsMP rated highly the idea of voluntariness that lies at the base of the proposals on teaching religious culture in the schools. The most important thing, according the Kirill, is to manage to overcome the anxiety displayed in various public circles in connection with the discussion of this topic. "Voluntariness and alternatives are the basis on which this system may exist," the patriarch noted.

Source: Portal-credo.ru, 21 July 2009 (tr. by PDS, posted 15 August 2009)
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