Unlike the United States, England and Wales both require the teaching of religion in schools that are funded by the government. In addition to teaching about the basics of the major religions around the world, teachers are supposed to help students learn to tolerate those who are members of faiths different from students’ own.
There is a looming problem in delivering religious education to students in England and Wales. There is currently a shortage of religion teachers. England needs slightly over 640 religion teachers to fill all positions. However, the government has only been able to fill a little more than 400 positions for the current school year. The education officials in Wales have not released any figures on teacher numbers at this time.
Educators are worried that if qualified religious education instructors are not hired to meet the current demand, schools will be forced to let teachers in other disciplines provide the mandated religious instruction. The fear is that teachers in the other disciplines will not be able to answer students’ questions about religion and religious matters in a highly accurate and in depth manner.
In order to recruit new religious education teachers, the government in the UK has formed an advisory board to provide recommendations. One solution that is being explored is changing the teacher accreditation requirements for religious instruction teachers. There are also efforts underway to get institutions of higher education to promote the teaching of religious education in schools as a viable career choice.