The difficulties faced by some teachers with strong religious beliefs when they teach evolution.
Pillay, Charmaine Marcelle
In 2008, the topic of “evolution” was introduced into the Life Science syllabus for the first time in South African schools. Evolution is a controversial topic in most countries and the controversy will be experienced in South African schools. This controversy results from the erroneous belief that teachers and most people have that religion and evolutionary theory contradict each other. This research study explored the difficulties faced by teachers with strong religious beliefs when they teach evolution. Eight teachers with strong religious beliefs were identified. Teachers of the Muslim and Christian faith who taught at either religious or secular schools formed part of the research study. The teachers were subjected to an in-depth interview where they were questioned about their religious beliefs and their opinions about creation and evolution. They also described how they taught evolution and explained how they coped with the conflict of faith and science that they experienced when they taught evolution. These teachers also experienced myriad difficulties when they taught evolution. These difficulties were described to me as the researcher. The findings indicated that all of the Muslim teachers and three of the four Christian teachers interviewed are Creationists. This leads to personal conflict that some of the teachers interviewed experience because of their belief that evolution and religious belief contradict each other. Two of the teachers in this study also experience a lack of confidence with the subject knowledge because they lack training in evolutionary theory. Due to this lack of training there are some teachers who harbour misconceptions about evolutionary concepts and who pass these misconceptions to learners. There is also pressure placed on teachers to teach creationism or to teach creationism alongside evolution from some religious leaders, some parents and certain members of the community. A few teachers with strong religious beliefs could teach evolution very superficially or these teachers could even sabotage their teaching of evolution. Teachers also experience difficulties teaching the learners in their class. The findings indicate that learners in religious schools may refuse to learn about evolution and learners in certainschools choosenot to do Life Sciences from Grade 10 to avoid learning about evolution. There are certain strategies that teachers employ to minimise the conflict they experience when teaching evolution. Learners were told they had to study evolution in order to pass the matriculation examination. Teachers also explained to learners that they needed to study evolution so that they could argue for Creationism from a position of knowledge and not ignorance. Certain teachers interviewed taught learners that science needs to be considered separate to religion. The conflict of faith and science that teachers experience when they teach evolution causes difficulties for these teachers.This conflict could arise from personal conflict with their faith or they could experience discord from learners, parents and members from the community in which they teach.
Creation, Teaching of evolution, Religious beliefs