Teachers’ and Parents’ Perspectives on a Curricular Subject of “Religion and Spirituality” for Indian Schools: A Pilot Study Toward School Mental Health Program
Religious–spiritual (R/S) education helps medical students cope with caregiving stress and gain skills in interpersonal empathy needed for clinical care. Such R/S education has been introduced into K-12 and college curricula in some developed nations and has been found to positively impact student’s mental health. Such a move has not yet been seen in the Indian education system. This paper aimed to examine perspectives of teachers and parents in India on appropriateness, benefits, and challenges of including R/S education into the school curriculum and also to gather their impressions on how a R/S curriculum might promote students’ health. A cross-sectional study of religiously stratified sample of teachers and parents was initiated in three preselected schools in India and the required sample size (N = 300) was reached through snowballing technique. A semi-structured questionnaire, with questions crafted from “Religion and Spirituality in Medicine, Physicians Perspective” (RSMPP) and “American Academy of Religion’s (AAR) Guidelines for Religious Literacy,” was used to determine participants’ perspectives. Findings revealed that teachers’ and parents’ “comfort in integrating R/S into school curriculum” was associated with their gender (OR 1.68), education status (OR 1.05), and intrinsic religiosity (OR 1.05). Intrinsic religiosity was significantly (p = 0.025) high among parents while “intrinsic spirituality” was high (p = 0.020) among teachers. How participants’ R/S characteristics influence their support of R/S education in school is discussed. In conclusion, participants believe R/S education will fosters students’ emotional health and interpersonal skills needed for social leadership. A curriculum that incorporates R/S education, which is based on AAR guidelines and clinically validated interpersonal spiritual care tools would be acceptable to both teachers and parents.
KeywordsReligion-spirituality Mental and social health School education Curriculum development Parents–teachers–students
This study was inspired by the experiences that I (first author in this paper) had as a visiting summer research intern at Gurgaon branch of Indus World School (IWS) in 2014. I am grateful to Harvard Divinity School’s “Center for Study of World Religion” that chose to award my project proposal, that aimed to understand “why and how to include religion/spirituality as a curricular subject in schools for promotion of interreligious understanding, peace, and social health among students.” This proposed internship project was supported by the Greeley scholarship award for which I am extremely grateful and feel blessed. Most importantly, I feel indebted to IWS administrative leadership of Mr. R. Satyanarayanan and Mr. Soumyo Dattagupta, and Principals of IWS Mrs. Kapila Sawhney Mrs. Archana Sharma and Mr. Ramanjit Ghuman for providing me the necessary infrastructure and personnel support to complete this study. Many thanks to members of the focus groups that helped to develop and pretest the questionnaire prior to our final study. Many thanks to our research-mentors Dr. B. K Ansari, and Mr. A. Abidi, for facilitating the "snowballing" process in Hyderabad, Telangana and, to Dr. A. Dias for the same in Bambolim, Goa. We greatly appreciate the Accendere Team for reviewing the manuscript, structuring, formatting, and preparing it for publication.
This study was not funded by any organization. However, I am extremely indebted to Harvard Divinity School's Greeley-CSWR scholarship (2014) for my 3-month summer international internship program at IWS. Experiences from that internship had inspired ideas, which went towards developing this research study, and it was completed in the summers of 2015-16. All the researchers and subjects (teachers and parents) of this study were voluntary participants. The AdiBhat Foundation of India, a nonprofit organization that is involved in the research on spirituality as health-related subject, supported the travel expenses of its principal investigator and overhead costs of the study.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
The ethics committee of Indus World School had approved this study which was in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional (Indus World School) and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Declaration of Helsinki and its later amendments.
Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.
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