Religious studies has entered the top 10 league of subjects in exams taken by most 16-year-old school students in Britain, the Church of England said in a statement marking the publication of examination results - writes Trevor Grundy.
The results published on 24 August 2010 also showed the number of school students taking religious studies for the General Certificate of School Education increasing for the 12th year running, said Nick McKemey, the church's head of school improvement.
"Twelve years of organic growth in student numbers cannot be ignored," said McKemey. "This is a phenomenon that indicates students' appreciation that exploring faith and belief help them to understand the world and become better global citizens."
Religious studies replaces French in the top 10 GSCE exam subjects. It is the first time that religious studies has featured in the top 10.
"Young people are clamouring for a deeper understanding of religious perspectives on issues of the day and how moral and ethical questions are considered by the major faiths," McKemey said.
Britain's major faiths include Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, and Sikhism.
The GSCE results cover England, Wales and Northern Ireland, as Scotland has a differently-structured educational system.
Ben Wilson, a Church of England spokesperson, told ENInews that religious studies remains in the top five of growing subjects with more than 75 000 candidates. In 2010, there were 188 704 exam candidates for religious studies, a 3.5 percent growth compared to 2009, Wilson noted.
He said, "It means that in growth terms … religious education is growing faster than mathematics and history."
[With acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, and the Conference of European Churches.]