Exam Board: AQA
Theology involves the discipline of being able to think outside of one’s own frame of reference. In a world that regularly sees the misrepresentation and characaturing of traditions; religious, secular, political and philosophical, it is essential that we learn to be critical of our own conceptual frameworks and more charitable to the views of others whilst remaining grounded in those beliefs and values that are significant to us. This is by no means an easy feat and requires the discipline of attention to detail and academic rigour.
Structure and Course Content
GCSE Theology at KHS focuses on two religious traditions in accordance with the AQA specification; Judaism and Christianity. The majority of the first year of the course is spent getting to grips with the core beliefs and practices of these two religions before moving on to four thematic topics in each religion. These themes include:
- Relationships and Families: Engaging with the complex questions around human sexuality, gender and family life looked at through the lens of religious traditions and critiqued through the worldviews present in contemporary society.
- Religion and Life: In this section you will look at a range of ethical topics from environmental ethics through to euthanasia and abortion as well as contemplating the veracity of religious experiences.
- The Existence of God and Revelation: Explores arguments for and against the existence of God as well as exploring the questions raised by different forms of revelation. Is the natural world or human consciousness enough to point to the existence of God? Should we accept the claims of those who say that they have had a direct experience of the divine? These, and other questions, are ones that we will explore further on the course.
- Religion,War and Peace: In 2016, the year that the new Religious Studies GCSE began to be taught, there were 53 armed conflicts around the world, the highest peak since the end of the Cold War. Understanding the reasons for and solutions to the problem of conflict in the world is of great importance. Given that around 84% of the world’s population still identify themselves as religious, it is essential to understand religious views on conflict including the role of religion in causing and seeking to prevent violence.
At the end of two years of study, pupils will sit two exams (there is no coursework component). These exams will be the Beliefs and Practices paper, which will examine pupils on their knowledge of the religions themselves. Then there is the Themes paper, which will test their knowledge of how religions respond to the aforementioned themes.
The course is taught by the two members of the Theology department, the Chaplain Revd Andrew Savage, a graduate of Oxford University, and William Osborne, a graduate of Durham University.
What should I consider before taking Theology GCSE?
Theology GCSE requires and develops skills in critical thinking, understanding other worldviews as well as analysis and evaluation. At GCSE, for most courses, you are committing yourself to two years of study so having an interest in your chosen subjects is a must! With this said, the course should also help grow your interest in a subject and help realise new interests as well.
If taking Theology at GCSE is something that you would be interested in then there are several ways you can look to grow your knowledge before and beyond the course. Firstly, there is expanding your knowledge of the Judeo-Christian tradition. Reading through portions of the Hebrew Bible, especially the Torah, and reading through the New Testament especially the Gospels is a very helpful exercise. This is a daunting task however, so there are plenty of good resources out there to help:
- The Bible Project - A website and YouTube channel that explores many facets of the Bible and Theology. Great content and very accessible.
- The Bible Project Podcast - To go into even more depth on the above, you can listen to the conversations that went into the making of the content of the Bible Project videos and resources.
- Judaism: A Very Short Introduction - The A Very Short Introduction series is great for doing exactly what it says on the tin. There is one on Christianity as well.
- The Jewish History Podcast - Great overview of Jewish origins and the history of the Jewish State of Israel.
In a way akin to learning a language, if you are prepared to take the time to learn the language of these two faith traditions then you open up a whole new world to explore; that is, to understand the dynamics of these living faith traditions then you need to be prepared to see reality through a different lens that might not be your own. Like learning a language however, this doesn’t mean that you have to give up your own language but can come to a new appreciation of it. Studying other faiths and philosophies, when done well, should have a comparable effect.
On a more concrete level, the GCSE paper has as its longest answer a twelve mark question which is, in effect, a brief essay. Each of the papers that you sit will involve four of these twelve mark essays along with four, one, two, four and five mark tasks. It is fair to say that there is a reasonable amount of writing involved though this is not something that should dissuade you if you are keen on the subject.