Death and life after death : children’s concepts and their place in religious education
The thesis addresses the issue of what are primary school age children's concepts of death and life after death and explores their place in the teaching of Religious Education in the UK.A synopsis of the doctrines and death rite practices of the six major religions are reviewed. The place of those concepts in Religious Education is presented and discussed. Qualitative and quantitative research method techniques are employed using semi- structured interviews and questionnaires. Two age groups of primary school children are targeted for the purposes of the interviews and main research study questionnaire 一 7-8 (Year 3) and 10-11 (Year 6) year olds. A total of fifteen interviews was conducted as a pilot study. The main research study questionnaire involved 763 respondents from eleven schools ― 406 from a multi-faith and multi-cultural region and 357 from a culturally more homogenous region. These elements allow for age and gender demographic factors and for the environmental factors ― belonging to a faith community and living in a multi-faith and multi-cultural region to be analysed. Four hypotheses were formulated and focused on the patterns of association between children’s concepts of death and life after death and four independent variables —— age, faith, gender and location. The following hypotheses were tested for evidence of the patterns of association between the variables through a quantitative test of significance:1. Age: Younger children are as able as older children to conceptualize death and life after death2. Faith: Children with no faith-base are as able as those with a faith-base to conceptualize death and life after death3. Gender: Boys are as able as girls to conceptualize death and life after death4. Location: Children not living in a multi-faith and multi-cultural region are as able as those who do to conceptualize death and life after death The results of the analysis were as follows: Age hypothesis: there was a difference between younger and older children. Faith hypothesis: it was possible to trace differences according to faith-base. Gender hypothesis: there was only a difference between boys and girls with respect to what they think comes after death. Location hypothesis: there was a difference according to location. The tests of significance were then complemented by examining patterns in the qualitative data to explore trends and exceptions where appropriate. A range of examples of the children’s responses are used to illustrate the findings and are evaluated. This research shows that children are willing and able to express their concepts of death and life after death regardless of age, faith, gender or location. The research affirms that children are capable of considering the concepts of death and life after death and they should be given the opportunity to explore them further. School is m advantageous and universally available place where meaningful consideration of the search of these concepts should occur as school is a familiar environment for discovery, learning and understanding for children. Religious Education is the most relevant area of the school curriculum where children’s discovery and learning can be focused on the exploration of these concepts through investigating ultimate questions with the rites of passage and doctrines of the major world religions. The quantitative and qualitative data produced and analysed in this thesis provide sufficient confirmation to support the meaningful and worthwhile updating of Religious Education syllabi for implementation by teachers and those responsible for Religious Education.