Religious education in secular schools:
The catastrophe that fell upon Russia in the beginning of the 19th century turned everything over in our country, bringing her enormous disasters and destruction. Just before the Church was subjected to severe persecution, the 1917-1918 Local Council adopted a special Resolution in which we find exceptionally important provisions concerning relations between church and school. According to its Par. 18, "the preliminary, secondary and high schools, established by the Orthodox Church, both theological and general, shall enjoy all the rights of the governmental educational institutions". No less relevant for us is Par. 19, reading, "In all secular public and private schools, the education of Orthodox children should conform to the spirit of the Orthodox Church. The religious instruction of Orthodox students should be obligatory in preliminary, secondary and high schools, and the religious instructors should be supported by the Treasury".
Thus, the Local Council believed that the Church should participate in education and Orthodox education should be supported by the state. Unfortunately, these decisions were not heard. Quite the contrary, the public education system was separated from the Church. The teaching of Orthodox faith was prohibited in all public and private educational institutions.
By the existing by-laws, the public education system remains separated from the Church. And as the nearly decade-long experience of the Moscow Patriarchate's Department for Religious Education and Catechism has shown, cooperation with the secular education systems presents a very complex problem. It is barred by the Russian Federation's laws and the resistance of some administrators both in the center and in provinces. Orthodoxy remains a primary spiritual and moral support for most people in our country, and a considerable part of the taxpayers in Russia, who finance the public education system, are Orthodox. On this account, it is only natural that Orthodoxy should inter the public school, while Orthodox schools should be supported by the state. Grounds for this stand are found in the Preamble to the Law on the Freedom of Conscience and on Religious Organizations of September 26, 1997, in which the state recognizes a special role Orthodoxy has played in Russian history and in the formation and development of Russian spirituality and culture.
The opportunity for religious studies in school today is incomplete and indefinite. Paragraph 4 of Article 5 of the above-mentioned Law reads: "Upon the request of parents or guardians, with the consent of children who are enrolled in state and municipal educational institutions, the administration of said institutions, with the permission of appropriate agencies of local administration, affords a religious organization the possibility of teaching religion apart from the general curriculum". The Ministry of Education interprets this law-given opportunity for teaching children religion in its Information Letter of July 4, 1999, entitled "Concerning the granting to religious organizations of an opportunity to teach religion to children outside the curriculum using public and municipal educational facilities". This letter speaks only of providing religious organizations with facilities for classes. At the same time, the decision to introduce an optional course on religion in a school is made a prerogative of the school administration. This decision should be negotiated not only with a self-government body of this school, such as the council of trustees, general meeting or pedagogical board, but also with municipal self-government bodies, such as the city council, the mayor's office, etc. By this Law, a school or higher authorities can refuse a religious organization to hold classes, which actually brings the opportunity to teach Orthodoxy to children to naught. The existing legislation concerning religious education is unsatisfactory, as it does not provide in fact for an opportunity to study Orthodoxy.
The teaching of the Bases of Orthodox Culture in public schools seems to be a promising experience. It has been a success in some regions. Thus, in Noginsk near Moscow, this discipline has been introduced in almost all schools. Similar efforts have been undertaken in Kursk, Volgograd and other cities. However, there are some unsolved problems here. This course is possible not only as optional, but also as part of the additional curriculum. A curriculum is chosen and adopted by a public school subject to the approval by higher organs. It means in fact that the Bases of Orthodox Culture can be introduced only if a ruling bishop personally manages to arrange it with the city administration.
There are other problems as well. How does the Basis of Orthodox Culture correlate with the contents, aims and tasks of the rest of public education? How does the teaching of Orthodoxy fit in the education system? Education fulfils the social function of handing culture down to generations. The contents of education structures the cultural heritage as a discipline to give a sum of knowledge in which every unit is part of the whole system, made consonant with the cultural tradition. This aim cannot be achieved if the additional curriculum will include studies on Orthodox culture, whereas the general basic curriculum will introduce "sexual education", "valeology" and other subjects with anti-Christian contents.
It is clear that culture in our country developed as Christian culture. Orthodoxy was the matrix of Russian culture, the field in which its components grew. And Orthodoxy is its integral part, a key to the understanding of the created existence without which the relationship of things disintegrates. Therefore, Orthodoxy cannot be just one of the disciplines along with others, such as mathematics, biology, etc. It should be included in the systemic relations ensuring the integrity of disciplines in the modern school as their uniting notional center. Playing an exceptional role in building life in our state and society, Orthodoxy is a culture- and meaning-forming element of the life of the Russian people, family and man, our spirituality, morality and education.
During the recent Christmas reading, a proposal was made to pose before the supreme state authorities the question of the need to seal in legislation the notion of "traditional" and "culture-forming" religion, which is Orthodoxy in Russia. As a result of such a decision, the courses on religious and cultural studies, already existing in public schools, could become Orthodox-oriented, which will meet the needs of the most of the population.
The separation of the Church from the pubic education system has proved ruinous not for the Church but for the state. It has resulted in a profound crisis that the secular education is experiencing in our country today. The secular education has lost orientation and ceased to meet the historical, cultural, spiritual and social needs of Russia. The grave condition of the public school has been caused not so much by economic or financial difficulties, as by the loss of the meaning, aims and values of education. The present crisis has been purely ideological and can be overcome only through the re-discovery of the spiritual foundations on which the culture of our countries was built for many centuries. Education cannot loose sight of the primary questions that every person asks and which determine his life. What is man? What does he live for? It is no secret that for many university graduates Orthodoxy is often an unknown religion. Religious studies are perhaps the weakest link in the chain of the university education system today. In universities, the same people who not so long ago worked in the field of "scientific atheism" teach religion. More often than not, they are well versed in the Marxist classical thought on religion, but unfortunately know nothing of the subject they are supposed to teach.
The public education system in our country should be based on the home historical and cultural traditions. Only that country has a future whose history continues on the basis of her traditions. Clearly, an education system can be brought out of crisis only if it has a point of support and awareness of its roots so that it may grow further. Orthodoxy always was a pivot on which traditional Russian way of life was built. Only it can offer to the secular education the most important thing, which is a clear vision of the spiritual vertical and the ability to distinguish between good and bad and point to spiritual height, holiness and the truth. Education is impossible if answer is not given to the main question: what kind of person you would like to cultivate. The Orthodox tradition knows the answer to this fundamental question. If there is no vision of where the source of spiritual power lies and in what the spiritual health lies, education turns into corruption, which is what the secular education system, unfortunately, often does.
Hegumen Ioann (Ekonomtsev)
The minister of general and vocation education, Mr. Filippov, in his report at the Seventh Christmas Readings in January 1999, gave his assessment to the present situation, stating in particular that "The political and socio-economic crisis threatening the very survival of Russia would not be so dangerous and ruinous if it were not aggravated by a crisis of the spirit, a crisis of education, a crisis of man…".1 What ways did he propose to come out of the crisis? He believes that it is a common knowledge what "confession of faith" is needed for the revival and prosperity of Russia. "It is a codex of those age-old values of morality and civic life which are common both for the Gospel and the Constitution of a contemporary state. The priority task in the present time is, to my mind, to assert these moral and civil values in our schools in their purity, and not only to assert, but also to put them in the center of education. For the future of our homeland depends in the first place not on investments or new technologies. It depends on the spiritual and moral potential of the youth, on their kindness, honesty, justice, industriousness, on their ability and desire to selflessly concerned for their neighbors and to be utterly devoted to their land… I am sure that ultimately we will be able to restore the leading role of the spiritual and moral values in education, to bring formation back to school and to strengthen therefore the inherent humanistic calling of school…".2
According to the minister, a search for ways to increase the formational potential of school led his ministry to enter into dialogue with "representatives of out major confessions, first of all naturally, with the Orthodox Church, as it is to her that all peoples of Russia without exception owe for education, foundations of statehood and public morality… It is my conviction that cooperation between the Orthodox Church and the secular education system will help restore in society the humanistic moral traditions essential for its sustainability".3
The Orthodox Church has been actively involved in the educational work with children. In the 1999/2000 academic years there have been 10 thousand people attending parish and Sunday schools of the Moscow diocese. On the one hand, it is good that the number of their pupils grows each year. On the other hand however, this number is infinitesimal, compared to the total number of schoolchildren in the Moscow region.
It is impossible to introduce religious instruction in secular general education schools. It is impossible within the curriculum to teach children to religion, that is, to teach them to pray, make confession, take communion and to wage spiritual struggle… What is possible is to conduct informative and introductory courses. In some schools of the Moscow region, in particular in Klin, the History of Christianity has been introduced in the curriculum as an optional course. Though this initiative suffered numerous attacks from officials, it could not be prohibited because the Russian law and the wish of the parents were observed. The priests who teach this subject are qualified teachers. They do not pray or conduct any religious rites at classes. This initiative, however, has been only a search for what children should study today.
There are programs for teaching doctrinal disciplines, developed for every school grade. They have been worked out, in particular, at the Pedagogical Institute in Kursk. In many places, however, it is more desirable and possible to introduce short courses intended for a few years in preliminary and high school. The Noginsk deanery has developed its own programs under the guidance of Archpriest Michael Yalov. Experimental programs have been put under test in the Klin deanery.
In the Moscow region, the Noginsk and Klin governors have decreed to introduce in the curriculum the Bases of Orthodox Culture (BOC). The aim of this course is not only to give knowledge. Overloaded with information, children tend to instinctively protect themselves and to take in only that information which is interesting or relevant for them. The aim of this subject is rather to promote formation. It is necessary to help children understand Jesus Christ and His attitude to them. In high school, it is appropriate to study history of religion as compared to Orthodoxy. In addition, stress should be made on family relations. It is a vast field for work. An educational aid should be developed to highlight these questions from the Orthodox point of view.
The experience of teaching BOC in Klin has shown that high school children are especially sensitive to the questions of spiritual life, religious history and moral life. Work with them is much easier and effective than with children from the fifth to the eighth grades who are less sensitive to spiritual matters.
Senior children who study BOC have proved spiritually and morally different from children of the same age who attend parallel classes where this course is not taught. Their vision of the world is brighter. They seek to struggle with sin. Many of them come to church in difficult moments, rather that taking up drugs, etc. Some children, on their own initiative, begin to take communion and make confession. Relations between boys and girls become purer. Children change their attitude to literature lesson and become less prone to the influence of totalitarian sects. As an example, a Bahai delegation came to Klin four years ago. They asked for an opportunity to meet schoolchildren. It happened so that they were sent to the school where the History of Christianity had been taught on an optional basis. The schoolmistress decided that since it was a religious delegation they might just as well talk to tenth-graders who studied the History of Christianity. As a result, the children "smashed" the Bahai teaching and advised the adults to read the Gospel a little bit. After this meeting, the schoolmistress had to comfort her sweating and foamy "dear guests" with a cup of tea in her office. The guests admitted they had never met and expected to meet with such a reception in provincial Klin.
The introduction of the BOC course has caused the problem of teaching personnel. The first to teach it in school were priests with the necessary pedagogical education and the experience of work with children in parish schools. But they were not many. Besides, they were loaded with parish work. In Noginsk, after negotiations with its mayor, a teachers training course was organized at the Cathedral of the Epiphany. Sixty people attended it four hours a week. They were taught such disciplines as Introduction to Theology, Orthodox Catechizes, Liturgics, Holy Scriptures, Bases of Russian Culture, History of the Church, and Teaching Methodology. At present there are six lecturers, three of them ordained. In addition, conferences and ten-day summer courses are conducted in the Noginsk region on a regular basis.
In the Klin region, an advanced coarse on the Bases of Orthodox Culture was initiated in February 1999 at the local Public Education Department. The director of the department, Mr. Ikhnev, and the dean of the Klin deanery, Archpriest Boris Balashov, supervised the course. Lectures are given two hours a week. The students are taught the New Testament and the Orthodox Catechizes. The teachers are Father Boris and the Rev. Alexander Soyuzov. In June 2000, the course graduated 15 schoolteachers, who were granted certificates of the Public Education Department. These certificates give them the right to teach BOC at secondary schools and in kindergartens.
I believe our main problem is to find and train serious pedagogues with good grounding for junior and senior schoolchildren. This is the most important task today.
Archpriest Boris Balashov
The results of the first year and a study of the opinion of children and parents led to the conclusion that it was necessary to continue teaching BOC and to introduce it to as many educational institutions as possible. From the new academic year 1999-2000, the discipline has been introduced in 43 schools, predominantly in primary classes.
The basis of BOC is religious instruction. Its tasks are to inform children about the basic religious notions and ideas, to explain them the history of the Old and New Testaments, to give them knowledge about the Orthodox Church and the Orthodox temple and major Orthodox feasts and finally to introduce them to the moral traditions of Orthodoxy through scriptural studies and examples from the life of particular historical figures. The course is built so that the scope of conceptions grows gradually with the children's age, with emphasis shifting from descriptive to substantial reflection.
The teachers see to it that the same themes are interpreted to children of different ages differently, according to their emotional and psychological development. For instance, a lesson in primary school cannot be conducted as a forty-minute-long talk, which is too difficult for little children's perception. The necessary elements here are games, visual aids and interaction. Children should be taken to various excursions, to church, as often as possible. Video- and audiocassettes are very helpful in work with schoolchildren of any age. The BOC lessons are special in that the teachers do not encourage competition. They do not single out anybody, working with a group as a whole and giving children their due as a group.
Teaching in primary school should be built on concise components, one or two principal ideas or biblical stories to be presented in a graphic vivid form. These ideas should be expressed simply, in words familiar and understandable to children. With the children of this age, it is helpful to recite verses and songs, to ask them to draw what they have learnt and to enact some situations in role games. All these activities enable children to learn well the principal idea of a theme studied.
The introduction of the BOC course has posed sharply the problem of training qualified teachers and controlling the quality of teaching. Already in early 1998, the Noginsk deanery held a first catechetical seminar for local teachers. Its aim was to introduce them to the basics of Orthodoxy and identify those who wished to teach this course. In August, two-week intensive course on the BOC teaching was held at the Cathedral of the Epiphany in Noginsk. Its aim was to inform the participants of the amount of knowledge necessary for teaching BOC and to identify those who could begin teaching it in the following year. The program included catechism, Holy Scriptures, introduction to theology, history of the Church, bases of Orthodox culture and the methodology of teaching BOC. Interviews were held after the course, and 41 teachers were granted certificates of the Bases of Orthodox Culture teachers with reference letters.
The course provoked such an interest that it was proposed, also by teachers, to turn this two-week course into a long-term one. The methodological board of the Noginsk deanery has developed a program for a two-year training course. Lecturing at this course at present are Noginsk clergy and professors of the Moscow Theological Academy and St. Tikhon's Orthodox Theological Institute.
The polls held among the schoolchildren studying BOC and their parents have indicated a lively interest, positive attitude to the new discipline and wish to continue the studies. An interesting fact was revealed: the percentage of positive responses in a school where the lessons on Orthodox culture were not held on a regularly basis was much lower than the average percentage in other schools. The inquiry showed the following attitude to the new discipline:
Most of the wishes expressed by parents were for continuing the studies. Many proposed to introduce the discipline to all the grades and to increase the number of academic hours allocated to it. They also noted its positive influence on the children.
As for the schoolchildren themselves, 92% of primary and secondary school children like the BOC lessons and approximately the same number of children want them to continue next year. Some 73% wish to deepen their knowledge of the subject on their own; 89% believe the knowledge received help to assess their actions and 88% seek to follow in life the commandments they learnt. Almost all children (98%) like to know more about God, our land and the history and life of people.
Among the questions high school children were asked was how the BOC studies influenced their faith. Some 55% thought no influence was made; 4% of them were non-Orthodox or non-believers, while the rest were Orthodox, that is to say, they were Orthodox and remained so. 38% believed their faith improved, that is, became stronger and deeper. Only one child said that as a result of the studies he came to believe in God. 84% of high school children believed that the BOC lessons were necessary for children of their age; 6% believe they were not (all of them coming from the school where the BOC was not taught regularly). 56% believed that the lessons changed them for the better as their understanding of life changed and they came to reflect on their place in it; they took a detached view of themselves, and their attitude to people changed for the better, etc. 29% thought the lessons made no impact on them. Among the themes of the greatest interest for the high school children were family, abortion, sects, commandments and the origin of the universe. The wishes expressed by high school children were similar to those of their parents, that is, to continue the BOC teaching and to increase the number of academic hours allocated to it.
The practice of the BOC teaching has shown that if the teacher is a believer, - a person committed to the Word of God he interprets at lessons, a person not indifferent, with an ardent heart, who does not just convey a certain sum of knowledge, but bears witness to the Truth - the children look forward to his lessons, ask questions and share their experience. Asked what theme is the most interesting, one eleventh-grade girl answered: "It is all the same for me what to listen to at the BOC lessons. Any theme is interesting for me".
It is also important that these lessons may become a step towards the church fold not only for children but also for adults around them. One fifth-grade girl made this significant confession to her teacher: "My grandmother keeps asking what new things we were told at the BOC today. I recite the whole lesson for her and she says that she knew nothing of that. It means, we learn together!"
At present, an optional course on the Bases of Orthodox Culture and Morality is taught in 32 educational institutions in the city and in 34 schools in the region to pre-school children, schoolchildren and students of vocational colleges at 35 lessons (one lesson a week) a year. Many schools offer the course not only optionally but also have included it in the World Art Culture discipline, out-of-class studies and lessons. The tasks of the teaching the course are as follows:
These tasks are carried out by teachers who conduct their classes on a high methodological and academic level. They work according to programs prepared by the best educators and approved by the regional education committees and the diocesan department for religious education. The Smolensk Association of Orthodox Teachers includes 60 people for whom monthly seminars are held for them to listen to lectures, discuss new books, review Orthodox periodicals, see Orthodox video films and to share experience.
On the basis of their experience for several years, Smolensk teachers have worked out certain methodological approaches to the teaching of the Bases of Orthodox Culture and Morality. First, reflection on the notions studied by students under such subjects should go deeper in substance with age. Thus, if pre-school children should be given only elementary knowledge on the Biblical history and Orthodoxy by introducing them to the Orthodox liturgical circle as the best way for them to learn Orthodox culture, emphasis in high school should be put on the personal reflection on the world and humanity and on the religious worldview. It is very important that the amount of knowledge given should be appropriate for a given age. Considering children's psychological peculiarities, it is possible to single out 4 age groups each requiring a specific way of teaching:
Forms of teaching should include along with regular classes out-of-school lessons, such as visits to churches, excursions to famous monasteries and shrines, aid to the needy, care of the minors, etc.
It is equally important not to limit the methods of teaching to verbal instruction, but to involve children in active studies on Orthodox culture, using various forms of children's creative work, such as drawing, singing, composing, etc.
The means of teaching should be also manifold. Reading the Old and New Testament books takes children in a world of great truths and contemporary ideas as well as high moral ideals. Along with Holy Scriptures, it is helpful in teaching this course to use studies on Orthodox history and hagiographic models. Lives of Saints, the favorite reading in Old Russia, deserve special attention as a perennial source for educating a growing up person for moral principles.
It is also very important that children should study Orthodox, both ecclesiastical and secular, arts, such as architecture, iconography, painting, fiction, tales, fairy-tails, music and poetry. Introduction to the church feasts makes children enter into the Orthodox liturgical circle, bringing together the spiritual and social life of the Russian people.
Pedagogical University of Nizhni NovgorodThe Bases of Orthodoxy has been taught in the Pedagogical University of Nizhni Novgorod since 1993. It was initiated jointly by the Nizhni Novgorod diocese and the university at its Center of Russian Orthodox Spiritual Culture. The university leaders, with whom the Nizhni Novgorod diocese has established good relations, have expressed their respect for Orthodoxy and willingness to cooperate all these years. At present, the Bases of Orthodoxy is taught as a major humanitarian discipline along with the History of Religion, the History of Russian Religious Philosophy and the History of Culture.
With the blessing of His Eminence Metropolitan Nicholas, the Bases of Orthodoxy is taught by two priests, both holders of the Candidates of Theology degree and lecturers of the same subjects at the Nizhni Novgorod Seminary.
The program of the course includes lectures on basic theology, dogmatics and liturgics. The basis theology part is an introduction dealing with such themes as the notion of religion, non-Christian systems of thought, Christianity as compared to other religions, the knowledge of God, Christian Revelations, Holy Scriptures and the Holy Tradition and Christian doctrinal sources.
Dogmatics makes up a greater part of the course. On the whole, it repeats the seminarian course, but in a more concise form, and naturally with a different argumentation. At a secular university, theology should be taught in the language of this school. Here it is more appropriate to treat the doctrinal truths in the light of apologetics and sometimes to complement it with certain insights of comparative theology. The themes in this part are the Orthodox doctrines on God as one in essence and triune in persons, the creation, divine providence, the fall of man, his redemption and sanctification, the Church and its sacraments and finally eschatology. The future profession of the present listeners as pedagogues compels their lectures to touch upon such themes as Christian anthropology and the Orthodox understanding of the dignity and calling of man.
The liturgical part of the course deals with church as a house of God, worship, fasting, feasts and the life of the Orthodox Church in general in the measure appropriate for secular students. Many themes can be timed to the church calendar. It is also helpful to introduce students to the history of the local diocese and to arrange excursions to churches remarkable architecturally.
Our work in a secular university is motivated by the conviction that every person has the right to know the truth. Search for truth and the meaning of life is the most intensive precisely in a young age when a way in life is chosen. Our direct duty is to offer young people the evangelical truth of salvation in Christ. However, it should not be forgotten that every person has the right to freedom. One cannot impose anything on the human freedom, but it is possible and appropriate to show that the evangelical truth does not diminish, but rather enhances it.
Man is a religious and moral creature and the moral law and search for God is built in his nature. Therefore, when we speak about education, two factors, religious and moral, should be taken into account as linked with the basic needs of the human nature. Man cannot be self-fulfilled if he develops only intellectually.
The task of authentic education is not merely to unfold the abilities inherent in the human nature, but to promote the harmonious formation of the human personality. It is possible to fulfil this task only if man is viewed in all the fullness of his aspects and rights. Therefore, cooperation between the Church and secular education is possible and necessary. This cooperation is always important, but it acquires special significance in training future educators.
Rev. Basil Smagin
The State Linguistic University of Nizhni NovgorodAt the Dobroliubov State Linguistic University of Nuzhni Novgorod, the students are to study and pass exams on five disciplines of their choice. One of the disciplines offered is the Origin and Essence of Orthodoxy. It was introduced in the curriculum four years ago at a joint initiative of the Nizhni Novgorod diocese and the university. Metropolitan Nicholas of Nizhni Novgorod and Arzamas blessed the initiative, and Rev. Vladimir Gofman of the Cathedral of Our Saviour began lectures on this subject at the university museum's Center of Russian Culture.
The course is read for 30 academic hours during two terms. After the reading is completed, the students are to pass an oral test or to write a thesis on one of the themes offered. As there is no special program developed for this particular course, a lecturer has to work out an academic plan for it on his own. The first year of the studies showed that the students, beginning from the first to the fifth year, had almost no grounding in religion and needed the most elementary knowledge on religion, Christianity and Orthodoxy, in particular.
In view of this, the lecturers included in the program such themes as the origin and essence of religion, the creation of the world and man and facts from the Old Testament history. But they put the emphasis on the coming of the Saviour to the world, the origin and propagation of Christianity, the baptism of Russia, the history of the Russian Orthodox Church and her place in the world today. Thus, the course gives knowledge from such disciplines as the History of the Church, Basic, Dogmatic, Comparative and Moral Theology, Catechizes, Sectology, etc.
In addition, students are given knowledge on the structure of an Orthodox church and overview of iconography and church music. These studies are accompanied with visits to churches and worship services, talks with clergy, choir presenters and icon-painters.
The optional course on the Origin and Essence of Orthodoxy has proved popular among the students. In the beginning of every academic year, students from all the three departments, pedagogy, translation and philology, sign up for it. On average, from 30 to 70 students attend the lectures annually. It is one of the best-attended optional disciplines in the university.
In addition to lectures, visits to churches and exams, thanksgiving services are conducted in the university three times a year, at the commencement, on St. Tatiana's Day and on the Day of Sts. Cyril and Methodius.
Certainly, the linguistic university is not an easy educational institution religiously, as there are many centers of foreign cultures and students often know the culture and religion of another country better that their own and communicate with foreigners more often than students in other universities do. All this requires of those who teach the bases of Orthodoxy a special approach to their subject in order to remove the stereotypes that have developed among the youth with regard to the Orthodox Church and believers.
For three academic years, the option course on the Origin and Essence of Orthodoxy was lodged in the Chair of Philosophy. In 1999, the university administration divided it into two components, "Orthodoxy and the Early Russian Literature" to be read at the Department of Philology during the first term and the Origin and Essence of Orthodoxy to be read at the Chair of Cultural Studies. The reason was that all the optional subjects should be read only one term, but it is impossible to introduce students to Orthodoxy even briefly within 15 hours. Therefore, various forms of studies had to be invented. Of course, it would be much simpler if the Orthodox introduction course had been officially included in the curriculum not as an optional discipline but a regular course with the necessary amount of academic hours allocated and a centralized program adopted by the authorities.
Experience has shown that students are interested in religion and can clearly distinguish between the confessions traditional for Russia and latter-day sects. Many of students from the linguistic university have become activists of the Orthodox Youth Center at the Nishni Novgorod Seminary. They issue an Orthodox youth newspaper called Preobrazhenie (Transfiguration). Some of them have entered theological schools. Many students of the course have become parishioners of churches in Nishni Novgorod, making confessions and communicating.
A serious and well-considered approach to the teaching of religious disciplines in secular schools is what is needed so much today when sectarians have not only come to the threshold of universities, but already crossed it, when many young people are carried away by hedonism and when drug-addiction has become a disaster for every fifth family.
Rev. Vladimir Gofman
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