The center-right government has assigned the National Agency for Education with the reform of the curriculum for religious studies in school. But even the preliminary reform proposals have already sparked angry criticism. According to the reform plan the curriculum will not explicitly mention the significance of Christianity for Sweden’s history anymore. Instead, pupils shall learn more about other religions and ideologies.
Stefan Gustavsson head of the Swedish Evangelical Alliance rejects what he calls a displacement of focus. "One cannot deny the enormous influence that Christianity has had on our culture for 2000 years", Gustavsson told Radio Sweden.
Even the Minister for Education Jan Björklund has expressed doubts over the reform draft. He believes that pupils need to learn about Christianity’s significance for Sweden even in the future. It is unclear though what the majority of the population thinks in this context. In this secular country of nine million, the Swedish Lutheran Church still counts almost seven million members. But after the Swedish state and the church went separate ways in the year 2000, the church has seen a sharp decline in membership figures. And the vast majority of its members do not consider themselves active Christians. In fact, many Swedes are secular by conviction.
Speaking to Radio Sweden, Rebecca Hybbinette, head of the Stockholm section of the Swedish Humanist Association conceded that pupils needed to know about the influence of Christianity on our culture. But Hybbinette also pointed out that a distinction had to be made between studies about and in religion.
Meanwhile the prospect of seeing the ancient world and the Middle Ages disappear from Swedish history books has got the Education Minister and leading historians in an uproar. Radio Sweden's Linda Nyberg takes a look at why the criticism has been so forceful.