Ethics and religious culture: an inspiring example for religious education in Flanders?

  • Leni FrankenEmail author


In 2018, the Québec Ethics and Religious Culture program celebrated its 10th anniversary. The launching of this program in schools in 2008 can be seen as the final step in a profound reorganization and a related deconfessionalization of the Québec educational system, a shift considered necessary to adapt school curricula to the present Québec society, which is characterized by secularism and increasing religious diversity. At present, Flanders (Belgium) is also undergoing a similar ‘paradigm shift’, with all the debates that accompany it. Because there are several important similarities between the present education and RE system in Flanders on the one hand, and the previous education and RE system in Québec on the other, a comparison between both regions can benefit the discussions involving the RE system and improve the future education policy in Flanders, but also in other regions or nations with comparable educational contexts. In this paper, I will therefore address the main similarities and differences between the two education systems and explain why the Québec education system in general, and the ERC subject in particular, could be seen as an inspiring example for future Flemish education policy. In addition, I will argue why some aspects of the present Québec system, and particularly of ERC, are rather controversial and/or problematic.


Ethics and religious culture Québec Belgium (Flanders) Non-confessional RE Faith-based schools 


  1. Andreassen, B.-O. (2011). On ethics and religious culture in Québec: Comments and comparative perspectives from a Norwegian and European context. Religion & Education, 38, 266–277.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Baillargeon, N. (2016). Enseigner la morale? In D. Baril & N. Baillargeon (Eds.), La face cachée du cours éthique et culture religieuse (pp. 235–264). Montréal: Leméac.Google Scholar
  3. Baril, D. (2016). Vous avez dit “approche culturelle”? In D. Baril & N. Baillargeon (Eds.), La face cachée du cours éthique et culture religieuse (pp. 89–120). Leméac: Montréal.Google Scholar
  4. Baril, D., & Baillargeon, N. (2016). La face cachée du cours éthique et culture religieuse. Montréal: Leméac.Google Scholar
  5. Brighouse, H. (2002). School vouchers, separation of church and state, and personal autonomy. In S. Macedo & Y. Tamir (Eds.), Moral and political education (pp. 244–274). New York: New York University Press.Google Scholar
  6. Brighouse, H. (2005). On education. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  7. Clemens, J., Palacios, M., Loyer, J., & Fathers, F. (2014). Measuring choice and competition in canadian education an update on school choice in Canada. Montreal: Fraser Institute.Google Scholar
  8. Council of Europe. (2008). Recommendation CM/Rec 12 of the Committee of Ministers to member states on the dimension of religions and non-religious convictions within intercultural education. Strasbourg: Council of Europe Publishing.Google Scholar
  9. De Groof, J. (2004). Regulating school choice in Belgium’s Flemish community. In P. Wolf & S. Macedo (Eds.), Educating citizens international perspectives on civic values and school choice (pp. 157–186). Washington, DC: The Brookings Institution Press.Google Scholar
  10. Derroitte, H., Meyer, G., Pollefeyt, D., & Roebben, B. (2014). Religious education at schools in Belgium. In M. Rothgangel, R. Jackson, & M. Jäggle (Eds.), Religious education at schools in Europe (Western Europe) (Vol. 2, pp. 43–63). Vienna: Vienna University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Dobbelaere, K., Elchardus, M., Kerkhofs, J., Voye, L., & Bawin-Legros, B. (2000). Verloren zekerheid—de Belgen en hun waarden, overtuigingen en houdingen. [Lost confidence—Belgians and their values, beliefs and attitudes]. Tielt: Lannoo.Google Scholar
  12. Doyon, F. (2016). Les vertus antiphilosophiques du cours ECR. In D. Baril & N. Baillargeon (Eds.), La face cachée du cours éthique et culture religieuse (pp. 67–88). Montréal: Leméac.Google Scholar
  13. Estivalèzes, M. (2012). Les programmes de culture religieuse à l’école au Québec, des années 1970 à aujourd’hui [The programmes of religious culture at school in Québec, from the 1970’s until today]. In M. Estivalèzes & S. Lefebvre (Eds.), Le Programme d’Ethique et Culture Religieuse. De l’exigeante conciliation entre le soi, l’autre et le nous [The ethics and religious culture programme. The challenging reconciliation between the self, the other and the us] (pp. 59–84). Ville de Québec: Presses de l’Université Laval.Google Scholar
  14. Estivalèzes, M. (2016). The professional stance of ethics and religious culture teachers in Québec. British Journal of Religious Education, 39(1), 55–74.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Franken, L. (2014). Religious and citizenship education in Belgium/Flanders: Suggestions for the future. Education, Citizenship and Social Justice, 9(3), 255–267.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Franken, L. (2016a). The freedom of religion and the freedom of education in twenty-first-century Belgium: a critical approach. British Journal of Religious Education, 38(3), 308–324.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Franken, L. (2016b). Islamic Education in Belgium: Past, Present, and Future. Religious Education, 112(5), 491–503.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Franken, L. (2016c). Liberal neutrality and state support for religion. Dordrecht: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Franken, L. (2017). Coping with diversity in Religious Education: an overview. Journal of Beliefs & Values, 38(1), 105–120.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Franken, L. (2018a). Islamic religious education in Belgian state schools: a post-secular perspective. Journal of Beliefs & Values, 39(2), 132–143.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Franken, L. (2018b). Religious studies and nonconfessional RE: Countering the debates. Religion & Education, 45(2), 155–172.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Franken, L., & Loobuyck, P. (2013). The Future of Religious Education on the Flemish School Curriculum: A Plea for Integrative Religious Education for All. Religious Education, 108(5), 482–498.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Franken, L., & Vermeer, P. (2017). Deconfessionalising RE in pillarised education systems: a case study of Belgium and the Netherlands. British Journal of Religious Education: 1–14.Google Scholar
  24. Gagné, A. (2016). Prévenir la radicaisation chez les jeunes. Enseigner l’histoire des religions au lieu du cours ECR. In D. Baril & N. Baillargeon (Eds.), La face cachée du cours éthique et culture religieuse (pp. 199–216). Montréal: Leméac.Google Scholar
  25. Gendron, C. (2012). Le dialogue sur les questions existentielles. In N. Bouchard & M. Gagnon (Eds.), L’Ethique et culture religieuse en question. Réflexions critiques et prospectives (pp. 47–62). Québec: Presses de l’Université de Québec.Google Scholar
  26. Glenn, C., & de Groof, J. (2005). Balancing freedom, autonomy and accountability in education (Vol. 1). Nijmegen: Wolf Legal Publishers.Google Scholar
  27. Gouvernement du Québec/Ministère de l’Éducation. (1999). Laïcité et religions. Perspective nouvelle pour l’école québécoise (Religion in Secular Schools: A New perspective for Québec).Google Scholar
  28. Gravel, S. (2016). Religious education in the Quebec’s ethics and religious culture curriculum: A cultural approach. In J. Berglund, Y. Shannei, & B. Bocking (Eds.), Religious education in a global-local world (pp. 223–239). Zürich: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Grimmitt, M. (2000). Pedagogies of religious education. Case studies in the research and development of good pedagogic practice in RE. Essex: Great Wakering.Google Scholar
  30. Havermans, N., & Hooghe, M. (2011). Kerkpraktijk in België: Resultaten van de zondagstelling in oktober 2009. Leuven: K.U. Leuven, Centrum voor Politicologie.Google Scholar
  31. IPSOS. (2017). Ipsos global study shows half think that religion does more harm than good. Retrieved 14 November, 2018, from
  32. Jackson, R. (2004). Rethinking religious education and plurality. New York: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Jackson, R., & Everington, J. (2017). Teaching inclusive religious education impartially: An English perspective. British Journal of Religious Education, 39(1), 7–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Jeffrey, D., Hirsch, S. (2016). Mieux adapter le programme d’Ethique et culture religieuse au primaire aux objectifs d’une éducation inclusive et interculturelle. (Mémoire soumis au Ministère d’éducation et d’enseignement supérieur du Québec dans le cadre de la consultation publique sur la réussite éducative.Google Scholar
  35. Jensen, T. (2008). RS based RE in public schools: A must for a secular state. Numen, 55(2–3), 123–150.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Kymlicka, W. (2013). The governance of religious diversity: The old and the new. In P. Bramadat & M. Koening (Eds.), International migration and the governance of religious diversity (pp. 323–333). Montreal: McGill-Queen’s Univerisy Press.Google Scholar
  37. Leroux, G. (2016). Différence et Liberté. Enjeux actuels de l’éducation au pluralisme. Montréal: Editions Boréal.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Levinson, M. (2004[1999]). The Demands of Liberal Education. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  39. Loobuyck, P. (2014). Meer LEF in het onderwijs. Levensbeschouwing, Ethiek en Filosofie voor iedereen. Brussels: VUB Press.Google Scholar
  40. Loobuyck, P. (2018). Het buitenperspectief maakt vrij. Over nut, noodzaak en mogeljkheid van neutraal, niet-confessioneel onderwijs over religie, levensbeschouwing en ethiek voor iedereen. Religie en Samenleving, 13(3), 205–225.Google Scholar
  41. Loobuyck, P., & Franken, L. (2011). Towards integrative religious education in Belgium and Flanders: challenges and opportunities. British Journal of Religious Education, 33(1), 17–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. MacMullen, I. (2007). Faith in schools? Autonomy, citizenship, and religious education in the liberal state. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  43. McDonough, K. (2011). “Voluntary and Secret choices of the mind”: The ERC and liberal-democratic aims of education. Religion and Education, 38, 224–240.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. MELS. (2008). Québec education program (secondary education). Montréal: Ministry of Education, Recreation and Sports.Google Scholar
  45. Modood, T. (2017). Multicultural nationalism, political secularism and religious education. In MulticulturalismHow can society deal with it? A thinking exercise in Flanders (report of the KVAB Thinkers in residence programme 2017), pp. 3–42. Brussels: KVAB Press.Google Scholar
  46. Morris, R. W. (2011). Cultivating reflection and understanding: Foundations and orientations of Québec’s ethics and religious culture program. Religion & Education, 38, 188–211.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Morris, R. W., Bouchard, N., & De Silva, A.-M. (2011). Enthusiasm and ambivalence: Elementary school teacher perspectives on the ethics and religious culture program. Religion & Education, 38, 257–265.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Poisson, M.-M. (2016). Un vours conçu pour preserver des privileges religieux historiques. In D. Baril & B. Normand (Eds.), La face cachée du cours éthique et culture religieuse (pp. 23–46). Montréal: Leméac.Google Scholar
  49. Rawls, J. (2005[1993]). Political liberalism. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  50. Rondeau, D. (2012). Fondements philosophiques et normatifs. Une analyse sous l’angle de la reconstruction. In N. Bouchard & M. Gagnon (Eds.), L’Ethique et culture religieuse en question. Réflexions critiques et prospectives (pp. 173–194). Québec: Presses de l’Université de Québec.Google Scholar
  51. Rymarz, R. (2012). Teaching ethics and religious culture in Québec high schools: An overview, contextualization and some analytical comments. Religious Education, 107(3), 295–310.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Sägesser, C. (2015). Vers une adaptation de l’enseignement de la religion et de la morale au paysage convictionnel du XXIème siècle? In J. Leclercq (Ed.), Morale et religions à l’école? Changeons de paradigme (Empreintes philosophiques n° 9, 2015) (pp. 35–53). Louvain-la-Neuve: Presses universitaires de Louvain.Google Scholar
  53. Sägesser, C. (2017). Country report. Belgium—the French community. British Journal of Religious Education, 39(3), 240–246.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Schreiber, J.-P. (2014). La Belgiuque, Etat laïque… ou Presque. Du principe à la réalité. Bruxelles: Espace de Libertés.Google Scholar
  55. Temperman, J. (2010). State neutrality in public school education: An analysis of the interplay between the neutrality principle, the right to adequate education, children’s right to freedom of religion or belief, parental liberties, and the position of teachers. Human Rights Quarterly, 32, 865–897.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. van der Kooij, J. C., de Ruyter, D. J., & Miedema, S. (2015). ’Can we teach morality without influencing the worldview of students?’. Journal of Religious Education, 2015(63), 79–93. Scholar
  57. Vermeulen, B. P. (2004). Regulating school choice to promote civic values: Constitutional and political issues in the Netherlands. In P. J. Wolf & S. Macedo (Eds.), Educating citizens. International perspectives on civic values and school choice (pp. 31–66). Washington, DC: Brookings Institution press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Australian Catholic University 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre Pieter GillisUniversity of AntwerpAntwerpBelgium

Personalised recommendations