Why study Philosophy, Beliefs & Ethics PBE?
England is a multi-cultural and multi-faith society, a fact that brings great benefits, but can also lead to misunderstandings and conflict. Prejudices are easily formed; if students are not to misunderstand different beliefs and attitudes, they must be well-informed. Yet, under pressure from testing and bombarded by the mixed messages of the media, students are often short of time to reflect on life's larger questions.
Religious Education is now known as Philosophy, Beliefs & Ethics, a title which better describes the breadth of the subject. Students no longer merely study religious texts: they examine religious beliefs, moral, ethical and cultural issues and the interaction between them. There is, of course, no shortage of topics for discussion: genetic engineering, war, the paranormal, illegal and legal drugs, relationships and many more.
As it becomes more difficult for students to secure university places, the need for open-mindedness and a high standard of literacy grows ever greater. PBE fosters both and, in consequence, has become one of the more popular GCSE subjects in the UK, at GCSE and at A-Level.
Students in English schools are required to study PBE. Unlike other schools, here at Chestnut Grove Academy, we think it better that their years of study should lead to a qualification; all our students sit the GCSE exam at the end of year 11.
Successful PBE students are:
Knowledgeable about a wide range of current topics; not a week goes by when one of our topics isn’t in the news;
Literate; our students learn to express ideas orally and in writing;
Good listeners; they learn to respect the opinions of others with whom they disagree;
Able to evaluate different perspectives using relevant evidence and reasoned argument;
Highly employable because they are aware of current affairs and of the different beliefs and cultures they are likely to encounter in the workplace;
Self-aware because they have reflected on their own identity, the meaning of life and moral issues;
Media savvy, because they have learnt to assess the information provided by the media.
Students receive one period of PBE a week during Key Stages 3 and 4; this enables them to begin their GCSE in Year 9 and to complete the full-course by the end of Year 11. Students can then opt to continue the subject for A-Level.
With mosques, churches and temples all around Wandsworth, there is certainly no shortage of places to visit. As part of their studies at the school, students will visit places of worship, allowing them to see how beliefs affect behaviour first-hand. In addition, some students spend time discussing philosophical and ethical issues at a ‘Faith Direct’ event each year, attended by many of Wandsworth’s most prestigious religious leaders and the mayor.
Of course, here at Chestnut Grove Academy students do not have to travel far to find members of different faith communities! This makes lessons interesting and dynamic as students discover and debate different ideas in their classes. Students can also have fun discussing a range of mind-boggling philosophy problems and debating current hot topics in ‘Philosophy Gym’: our new KS3 PBE club.
What can you do to support your child?
Encourage your child to do his/her PBE homework: they are given a homework booklet each half term and will need to complete the relevant section every two weeks.
Encourage your child to read a newspaper at least once a week; this develops their literacy skills and keeps them informed of current ethical issues that they can discuss in their work.
Encourage your child to complete additional research, either through using books and the internet (under your supervision) or through discussing the issues with members of your community.
Help your child master the ability to reason and evaluate by debating issues with them. Make sure they learn to use evidence and clear examples to support their points, whether arguing about politics or about doing the washing up!
Withdrawal from lessons
Schools have to teach religious educaiton at all ages. Against the advice of the school and the government, parents can withdraw their children from all or part of the lessons. Students can choose to withdraw themselves once they are 18. Parents who wish to do this should write to Mr Kingsley to arrange a meeting.