Human Rights Issues related to the Place of Religion in Early Childhood Education - a Case from Denmark

Eva Lindhardt, Cecilia Decara

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The place of religion in early childhood education is a field that potentially contains issues concerning the freedom of religion or belief of the child. In a European context religious education has historically been linked to an enculturation of the dogma, norms and practices of the majority religion. As in many other European countries, religious education in Danish pre-primary and primary schools is non-confessional today, albeit there is an ongoing discussion about the Church of Denmark’s privileged position in early childhood education. Based on theories on education and identity formation as well as the international framework for human rights and human rights education, we argue that even though religions and beliefs of historical reasons are not treated quantitatively equal in early childhood education, they should be treated qualitatively equal. Moreover, we identify and analyse some of the challenges of the education system’s reproduction of specific religious and cultural norms and ideals in a society that is otherwise characterized by plurality and founded on the rights and freedoms of the individual.Three criteria defining non-confessional religious education are deduced from case-law from the European Court of Human Rights, namely objective, critical and pluralistic. Turning to the case of Denmark, we examine whether religious education in early childhood education meets these criteria and discuss whether awareness of human rights norms and principles can contribute to a religious education that treats different religions and beliefs qualitatively equally.
Original languageDanish
Title of host publicationThe Routledge International Handbook of the Place of Religion in Early Childhood Education and Care
EditorsArniika Kuusisto
Publication date2022
Publication statusPublished - 2022
SeriesRoutledge International Handbooks

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