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Religion in Education. A contribution to dialogue or a factor of conflict in transforming societies of European Countries(REDCo)

Funding: European Commission Framework 6
Amount: Euro 1.2 million (between 9 universities)
Duration: 2006-2009
Researchers: (Warwick section of the project) Professor Robert Jackson; Dr Ursula McKenna; Dr Kevin O'Grady; Dr Julia Ipgrave; Judith Everington.

This research proposal was submitted as part of the EU Framework 6: ‘Citizens and governance in a knowledge based society’ research field, under Research Priority Area 7: ‘New forms of citizenship and cultural identities’. The Project was designed to contribute to section 7.2.1., ‘Values and religions in Europe’

The project’s main aim is to establish and compare the potentials and limitations of religion in the educational fields of selected European countries and regions. The project aims to identify approaches and policies that can contribute to making religion in education a factor promoting dialogue in the context of European development. Robert Jackson’s interpretive approach will be used as the theoretical framework for the pedagogical elements of the project.

Following a very positive evaluation of the project proposal in July 2005, the consortium heard officially from Brussels in September 2005 that the proposal had been successful. The Project started in March 2006 and is scheduled to end in February 2009. A conference was held in Hamburg in December 2005 to bring the directors of each section of the project together and to launch the project. Professor Peter Berger (University of Boston) was among the speakers at this event.

The budget for the total proposal is Euro 1.188.492,00

The budget for Warwick is: Euro 133.488,00

List of participants

1 University of Hamburg (Prof W Weisse)

2 University of Warwick (Prof R Jackson)

3 Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes / Sorbonne EPHE (Prof J-P Willaime)

4 Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (Free University Amsterdam) (Prof S Miedema)

5 University of Stavanger (Prof G Skeie)

6 University of Tartu (Dr P Valk)

7 Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster (University of Münster) Prof Muhammad Kalisch

8 Russian Christian Academy for Humanities (St.Petersburg) (Prof. Vladimir Fedorov)

9 Universidad de Granada (Dr Gunther Dietz)

The Scope of the REDCo Project

The REDCo project includes discrete studies from each of the participating universities, plus qualitative and quantitative surveys of adolescents’ attitudes to teaching about religious diversity across the 8 countries represented and various thematic and comparative studies. The project’s first publication reports the first thematic study (Jackson et al 2007), assesses current issues in religious education and related fields in Europe.

Part one includes discussions of European institutions, including the European Union and the Council of Europe, and includes material relevant to all European countries.

Part two contains historical and contextual analyses of religion and education in the eight participating countries. The contributions discuss the historical tradition and socio-political background of religion in education, as well as the present context of religion in education, including the nature and degree of multiculturalism, the impact of globalisation, and pedagogical trends. The chapters discuss the changing aims in religious education, questions related to the legal framework, as well as policies and pedagogies addressing issues of dialogue and conflict in school and society. These analyses are a foundation for the project’s empirical and theoretical work.

The final chapter (part three) is a reflection on some of the issues raised in the main body of the book.

Please click here for details of how to purchase the book.


The Interpretive Approach and the EC Framework 6 REDCo Project

The interpretive approach (Jackson 1997, 2004, 2006) was employed as ‘the main theoretical stimulus’ in the REDCo project proposal (Jackson et al 2007; Weisse, 2007). The interpretive approach was developed during ethnographic studies of children and young people conducted at the Warwick Religions and Education Research Unit based in the University of Warwick’s Institute of Education (eg. Jackson & Nesbitt 1993). Ideas developed during ethnographic research were subsequently applied to religious education pedagogy and text book design.

The REDCo project proposal saw the interpretive approach as having high potential for developing theory and method for both the field research of the project and for the development of suitable pedagogies for teaching about religions in contemporary societies in ways that would give attention to issues of dialogue and conflict.

An overview of the approach, giving emphasis to its key concepts, was presented by Professor Jackson to the combined project team at the Granada meeting in 2006, and a paper on the approach was circulated and posted on the REDCo website. In addition, a workshop was held in Granada for all REDCo participants, introducing the ethnographic methods used in developing the interpretive approach, highlighting different features of the ethnographic process.

Adapting the Interpretive Approach to the REDCo Project

In successive discussions by the REDCo project team, a number of points were established:

  • The interpretive approach should be seen exactly as portrayed in the project proposal. It was a theoretical ‘stimulus’ for the project as a whole.
  • The key concepts of the interpretive approach had been used both in field research (in relation to methods and data analysis, and in relation to analysing power relations, for example) (Jackson & Nesbitt 1993) and in pedagogy (eg Jackson 1997). The approach would provide a framework and stimulus for the discussion of issues in both of these contexts.
  • The project included scholars and researchers steeped in a range of epistemological and theoretical positions and methodological approaches. This was regarded by the project team as very healthy, and permitted a constructive dialogue on issues of epistemology, theory and method. The importance of the key concepts of the interpretive approach was not to impose any uniformity in theory, epistemology or method, but to assist in the identification and clarification of issues in theory, methodology and pedagogy.

Thus, the approach was seen in terms of a series of questions to be reviewed as research and pedagogical development proceeded. The questions apply equally to the research process (theory and method) and to the development of pedagogical approaches. Each group of questions corresponds to one of the three key concepts of the approach. These questions are being used in all aspects of the REDCo project’s research, including 9 nationally based studies (this includes the Warwick ‘community of practice [Wenger 1998]), generic qualitative and quantitative surveys, and comparative studies.


As researchers and developers of pedagogies:

  • How well are we portraying the way of life of those we are studying so we avoid misrepresentation and stereotyping?
  • Are we presenting ‘religions’ in too monolithic a way?
  • Are we giving sufficient attention to diversity within religions?
  • Are we considering whether individuals might be drawing on a wider range of spiritual or ethical resources than are reflected in traditional portrayals of religions?
  • Are we showing awareness that individuals might be combining elements from a religion seen in traditional terms with values and assumptions derived from a more post-modern outlook?
  • How far are we aware of the perceived relationship (or lack of relationship) of individuals studied to background religious and cultural traditions?
  • How far does the use of power by relevant authorities/actors (national, regional, local) affect the representation of ‘others’ and ‘self’/‘own group/tradition’?


As researchers and developers of pedagogies:

  • How far are we giving attention to the religious language/concepts/symbols used by those whom we are studying/representing?
  • How well are we ‘translating’ the other person’s concepts and ideas (or comparing the other person’s language/concepts with our own nearest equivalent language/concepts) so we have a clear understanding of them?
  • How far are we able to empathise with the experience of others after we have grasped their language/concepts/symbols?
  • Have we considered the relationship of individuals to groups to which they belong (eg sub-tradition, sect, denomination, movement, caste, ethnic group) and of these groups to their background religious and cultural traditions?
  • Have we considered the impact of power relations on processes of interpretation?
  • How far have we considered issues of ‘translation’ (linguistic and cultural) in relation our use of religious language?


As researchers

  • How far are we aware of the impact of our own cultural background/values and beliefs/gender/research role/power etc. on the research process or development of pedagogical ideas?
  • How far are we relating the data of our research to our own current understandings of difference?
  • How far are we giving attention to the evaluation of our research methods?

 In relation to pedagogy

  • How far are we enabling students and teachers to reflect on their own assumptions/presuppositions/prejudices in relation to studying those with different religious/cultural beliefs/practices?
  • How far are we giving attention to issues of enabling students and teachers to relate material studied to their own ideas and values?
  • How far are we giving attention to issues of motivation in relation to reflexivity?
  • How far have we enabled students and teachers to make a careful, sensitive and distanced critique of new ideas studied?


Jackson, R. (1997) Religious Education: An Interpretive Approach, (London, Hodder & Stoughton).

Jackson, R. (2004) Rethinking Religious Education and Plurality: Issues in Diversity and Pedagogy (London, RoutledgeFalmer).

Jackson, R. (2006) Understanding religious diversity in a plural world: the interpretive approach, in: M. de Souza, K. Engebretson, G. Durka, R. Jackson and A. McGrady (Eds), International Handbook of the Religious, Moral and Spiritual Dimensions of Education (Dordrecht, the Netherlands, Springer Academic Publishers), 399-414.

Jackson, R. (2007) European institutions and the contribution of studies of religious diversity to education for democratic citizenship, in Jackson, R. Miedema, S. Weisse, W. & Willaime, J.-P. (Eds.) Religion and Education in Europe: Developments, Contexts and Debates, (Münster, Waxmann), 27-55.

Jackson, R. Miedema, S. Weisse, W. & Willaime, J.-P. (eds.) (2007) Religion and Education in Europe: Developments, Contexts and Debates, Münster, Waxmann.

Jackson, R. & Nesbitt, E. (1993). Hindu children in Britain. Stoke on Trent: Trentham.

Weisse, W. (2007) The European research project on religion and education ‘REDCo’: An introduction, in Jackson, R. Miedema, S. Weisse, W. & Willaime, J.-P. (Eds.) Religion and Education in Europe: Developments, Contexts and Debates, (Münster, Waxmann), pp. 9-25.

Wenger, E. (1998). Communities of Practice, (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press).






REDCo (full REDCo project site at the University of Hamburg)



































A webcast of an interview with Bob Jackson about the interpretive approach is available here