Religious Studies & Philosphy
Who am I? Why am I here? Is there a God? What are good and evil? Is it ever right to go to war?
In Years 7 to 9, boys have one lesson per week in Religious Studies and in Year 9 they may opt for double lessons of philosophy as one of their choices.
Religious Studies may be chosen as an option for GCSE, although boys do not need to have taken the extra lesson in Year 9. Philosophy is also available as an A-Level choice.
In Year 7, the syllabus covers Christian teaching and issues and is based on some broad questions, such as: ‘Who am I and why am I here?’ ‘What does the tooth fairy do with all those teeth?’ ‘Will I ever get picked as captain?’ Each topic lasts just a few weeks and involves class discussion and written assignments.
Year 8 is also based on some enquiries and starts with an analysis of religion under the heading ‘Is Football a Religion?’ We then move on to examine the relationship between religion and society, ask whether a religion needs a god as we study Buddhism, and then study the ethical issues of equality and prejudice.
Year 9 Religious Studies focuses on contemporary religious and moral issues through the means of answering some of life’s Big Questions. Some of the questions covered are ‘Has Science disproved God?’, ‘Why is there so much suffering?’, and ‘Are Abortion and Euthanasia acceptable?’.
Boys may take Philosophy in Year 9, which focuses on providing a foundation in major themes such as moral philosophy, philosophy of mind, and philosophy of knowledge. The course involves lots of discussion alongside some fairly deep thinking, featuring many of the world’s most famous philosophers. We also examine where philosophy has an impact on everyday life, for example, philosophy in the movies or in our own decision making. There is no option for Philosophy at GCSE, although the Religious Studies syllabus is based as much on Philosophy as possible. This course provides an excellent basis for thinking skills, debating and logic.
In their Religious Studies GCSE, students follow the AQA Specification A syllabus and build on ideas, skills and understanding developed throughout the Lower School.
The course is open to students of all faiths or none, since the curriculum covers many issues and ultimate questions relevant to everybody. By engaging with these ideas, boys are able to mature in their own views and learn to respect the views of others.
GCSE Religious Studies also offers the opportunity to cultivate important study skills as the boys write essays, develop reasoned arguments, and express their own opinions whilst researching great philosophies of the past.
The syllabus is split into two parts and each is examined with a 1¾ hour exam after two years. The first part involves studying the beliefs and practices of two major world religions. The second paper focusses more on philosophy and ethics and we study four broad themes from a possible six, including Relationships and Families, Religion and Life, Peace and Conflict, Human Rights and Social Justice.
Religious Studies is a great subject for those boys who want to study something a little different, continue conversations from the Lower School or develop their own philosophical tendencies.
It also teaches excellent study skills and encourages opportunity to think through these everyday issues which frequently confront us in 21st Century life.
Philosophy seeks to answer questions about ideas and the world that we normally take for granted.
Questions about the nature of reality, how we acquire knowledge and whether there is any purpose to existence are all philosophical questions. In fact, if you keep asking ‘why’ about any question, scientific, linguistic, historical or mathematical you will always eventually end up with a philosophical question rather than the one you started with. Philosophy underpins everything.
Philosophy students should be ready for lots of discussion and ‘arguing’, reading and essay writing. The ability to express ideas and opinions both verbally and on paper (something that subjects like History and English prepare you for) is an advantage. There are lots of new concepts to challenge you and you will gain invaluable skills in reasoning and logic.
Philosophy A-Level comprises two papers each covering two topics. Together they provide an introduction to several broad philosophical themes.
Those themes are:
Year 1 – Epistemology and Ethics:
• The study of knowledge • How and whence we derive our system of morals
Year 2 – Metaphysics:
• The nature and existence of God • The philosophy of mind and nature of reality
The department has an extensive library of books and journals for wider reading and a range of extension activities are offered to help students develop their analytical skills. There is also the opportunity to attend various philosophical and ethical conferences relating to the course.
Many universities also look favourably on Philosophy as excellent preparation for further studies, particularly for subjects such as PPE or Law.