This article does not directly research extremism, radicalisation or fundamentalism. However, it does provide an insight into how Religious Education (RE), as taught in British schools, might promote community cohesion. While efforts to promote community cohesion were separated from the UK Government's Prevent agenda in 2011 it is still felt in many quarters that in the longer term promoting good community relations does help prevent some forms of extremism and that RE can play an important role in that process with young people. In that context this is a useful article with data on how successfully RE might achieve this within the British curriculum.
The aims of religious education (RE) as a curriculum subject are contested and under constant review. One particular aim widely promoted by policymakers, practitioners and other stakeholders is that RE distinctively among curriculum subjects, prepares future citizens for life in a religiously and culturally diverse society. I support the view that publicly-funded schooling should prepare young people for religious and cultural diversity as an aim; furthermore, that RE taught well contributes in a distinctive way to this endeavour. I pursue this issue with particular reference to schools in England and in response to a report by the All Party Parliamentary Group on RE (APPG) published in 2014, RE and Good Community Relations. I offer a theoretical analysis – based upon Bruner’s ‘Folk Pedagogies’ (1996) – which anticipates future investigation into how RE might best promote inter-religious and cultural understanding alone, to the detriment of other legitimate aims for the subject. Secondly, it needs to be clear in pedagogical terms how RE promotes inter-religious and cultural understanding. In preparing this ground, I argue that claims for the subject by religious educators and their supporters should not be overblown; furthermore that policymakers’ expectations of what might be achieved through RE should not become inflated.