Foundational Issues in Educating Young People for Understanding and Appreciation of the Religions in Their Communities

  • Kathleen Engebretson Australian Catholic University


This is a conceptual paper considering some of the foundational issues that a teacher needs to have at least considered (if not resolved) when he or she sets out to encourage students to understand and appreciate the variety of religions in their communities. The first issue is that of what to call the enterprise; the second relates to assumed hierarchies of religions and the barriers these can impose on genuine education about religions; the third issue is that of the fundamentalist student; the fourth issue is the pervasive presence of religious history especially when religion has been the oppressor; the fifth, the position of the believing student in the conversation; and the sixth, the development of critical thinking about religions. All of these foundational issues provide rich content for educators’ reflections, reading, and discussions with colleagues and dialogue with students.

Author Biography

Kathleen Engebretson, Australian Catholic University

Associate Professor Kath Engebretson is a lecturer, researcher, writer and doctoral supervisor in the School of Religious Education at Australian Catholic University. Her current research interests are inter-faith education, the role of the Catholic school in relation to the local Church community, professional standards for teachers of religious education, and freedom of religion in relation to religiously affiliated schools. She is widely published both nationally and internationally, and along with colleagues from Australian Catholic University and overseas she is one of the editors of the International Handbook on the Religious Spiritual and Moral Dimensions of Education as well as the International Handbook of Inter-Religious Education. Her three most recent books are: In Your Shoes: Inter-Faith Education for Australian Religious Educators (2009); Cornerstones of Catholic Secondary Religious Education. Principles and Practice of the New Evangelization (2008, with Marian De Souza, Michael Buchanan and Richard Rymarz), and   Connecting : teenage boys, spirituality and religious education (2007).

How to Cite
Engebretson, K. (2012). Foundational Issues in Educating Young People for Understanding and Appreciation of the Religions in Their Communities. Catholic Education: A Journal of Inquiry and Practice, 16(1), 49-64. Retrieved from