UK: How could the teaching of Buddhism be improved in schools?

UK: How could the teaching of Buddhism be improved in schools?

Wheel of Dharma

Observations about the delivery of Buddhist RE to students in the UK refer to Systematic and traditional delivery, addressing the usual main topics : The Three Jewels, (i.e. Buddha, Dharma, Sangha), the Four Noble Truths, the Noble Eight Fold Path, etc. There is a Thematic strand, e.g. Exploration of religious founders, rites of passage and festivals, specific virtues and ethical values such as forgiveness, selfless and charitable behaviour, etc, along with a Comparative approach : i.e. Buddhism taught alongside another faith such as Christianity.

RE Teachers’ contact with the Buddhist Community and Representatives

Generally speaking, delivery of the Curriculum benefits from closer cooperation with the Buddhist community.

However most RE teachers do not seem to know who their Buddhist rep is, and this could suggest that very few secondary RE teachers enjoy a constructive relationship with their SACRE overall, or even that many SACREs do not have a Buddhist representative to advise them.

Ideas for improving the teaching of Buddhism from the Teachers’ perspective

  • More interaction with the local Buddhist community for both teachers and school children, both in the classroom and out on a day trip
  • Good quality multimedia and interactive material targeted at the appropriate level: The material should be affordable or free; existing material is patchy (e.g.’ GCSE bitesize’ does not cover Buddhism.
  • Method and practice of teaching: the Agreed Syllabus could include and outline methods and practices for teaching Buddhism, more in line with its view of the world and approach to life, not just lists of contents, or topics taken in isolation and shoe-horned into an ill-fitting RE teaching model. To put it bluntly:
    • Buddhism is a non-theistic religion to start with, and boldly puts the Four Noble Truths at the heart of its teachings, laying out a path to be walked, rather than preaching salvation through the Mercy and/or Revelation by a (personal) Godhead;
    • Secondly it does not place as much emphasis on social engagement as a practice, though it recognizes its value in healing the artificial divide between me and other, but rather encourages introspective examination and development of awareness;
    • nor is it overly concerned with the dynamics and rituals surrounding sexuality, as some other traditions are; etc.

Interesting article here to investigate further:


‘Content-focus, as the all-in-all of an instructional scenario, only touches certain aspects of experience, usually verbal/analytic ones. This is particularly problematic in the teaching of Buddhist traditions, since so much of the “material” is dependent upon psycho-physical awareness: how one sits, breathes, and moves.’

Mariano Marcigaglia sits on the Southwark SACRE, helps out with RE support at the Buddhist Society, and maintains the Dharma People website and related blogs providing an index to interesting online material.

Read the full document he has produced: <here>

Buddhist monks in Myanmar in procession

Source: The London RE Hub