May I inform Mr John Elliott (December 1) and your readers that there already is a Catholic option in Religious Studies at GCE "0" level. This has been in existence under the Welsh Joint Education Committee for some years and this year changed over to Mode II operation with an external, independent examiner. The syllabus is as proposed by the teachers and accepted by the WJEC. (There is also an "A" level.)
I think that the teachers would agree that not all the problems with the examination have been sorted out, and I may note the following which are of concern to me:
1.1s this GCE subject to be regarded as on a par with others, examined on the basis of academic performance? If so, is it acceptable that this means that non-academic pupils will fail the exam, while many may not even be entered for it? No doubt the new arrangements for 16 plus will alleviate this problem.
2. Can pupils be expected.to take the subject seriously if the majority of head-teachers do not take it seriously enough to give it sufficient space on the timetable?
Closely related to this is the clear view of heads of RE that the covering of the GCE syllabus cannot be regarded as an adequate treatment in the relevant way of all the religious and moral topics related to the personal growth of children aged 15 Or 16.
In other words, time has to be provided for catechisis / moral teaching / discussion in addition to time for "theological studiesfor GCE.
3. How far should such an exam be factual — concerned with what the official church teaches (and what Catholics actually believe and do)?
One of the WJEC papers is headed "Theological Studies", which implies some degree of personal reflection and judgment, as far as is appropriate at "0" level.
Should the examination questions reflect moral and doctrinal un certainty in the Church and allow for pupil dissent, or should the examiner pretend there is no room for debate or disagreement with Church teaching?
I would welcome your readers' comments.
(Dr) John Healey University College, Cardiff.