At the beginning of the 21st century the content of Religious Education was questioned in Belgium.
In 2000 Hervé Hasquin, Prime Minister of the French Community, became an important advocate for more information and debate about philosophy, other religions and worldviews in the third grade of Belgian secondary schools.
In November 2009 an interesting international two-days colloquium about ‘Religious Education in a Plural, Secularized, and Diverse Society’ took place at the Pieter Gillis Center of the Antwerp University.
A few years later, spring 2011, LEF (‘Lifeviews’, Ethics and Philosophy) saw the light of day. This non-profit organization started under the wings of Prof. Dr. Patrick Loobuyck (Antwerp University) and was supported by a meaningful group of teachers and researchers.
The next years LEF generated a lot of attention in the media and its ideas became a hot topic in school environments. During debates and conferences these new opinions about Religious Education kept on spreading and became more and more established and accepted in all Belgian regions, as well as in the Netherlands.
At the same time the LEF-adepts became curious, whether this new vision on Religious Education had also become a topic in the rest of Europe. In that case this could create a source for mutual inspiration.
The LEF-project was criticized by some people. Those opponents thought pupils would become overwhelmed and overpowered by too much knowledge and too many external points of view.
By the end of 2019 the LEF-mindset was therefore refined and updated. LEF-Plus was born.
The LEF-Plus objective is that this new course must be neutral, valuable, and pluralistic. The pupils should experience a personal, emotional, and social development and some moments of (self-)expression and relaxation could create additional value.
It is the aim that all young people attending these lessons, feel involved in the lessons and that they are able to draw on their own life experiences. Their questions and problems should be addressed.
In 2016 LEF started to believe this new concept of Religious Education could easily be implemented in our secondary state schools. In a later phase it could be introduced in their primary schools.
We see this project as a promising development, a social innovation that can help youngsters in growing mentally. In a world full of disorder and anxiety these lessons can offer a platform, on which they can reach more solidarity and greater understanding among each other.
In the future, such lessons could also be developed in other European countries. More cohesion between all kinds of individuals, groups and countries will be the outcome.
We should work together, so that this project can take root in all primary schools. There it will form a first layer of personal and social development. This way, secondary school teachers will get the opportunity and time to focus on further orientation and in-depth study.
Hugo Durinck, Lef-Plus.be
Senior lector University College Ghent Belgium