Bioethics Blogs

Bioethics education in England: going backwards or forwards?

Over this autumn school term, members of our Education Advisory Group are sharing thoughts and ideas based on their own experience of how bioethics and debate can be useful in education contexts. This post is written by Michael J Reiss, Professor of Education at the Institute of Education, University of London.

I joined the Nuffield Council on Bioethics Reaching Out to Young People Group (now the Education Advisory Group) at its inception ten years ago. But what is the current state of bioethics education in England? Are things getting better or worse?

On the plus side, we now have many more high quality resources than we used to, not a few of them the result of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics’ own work. Such resources are being used in science lessons, in RE lessons and in a number of other subject areas. Furthermore, bioethics itself remains prominent in media debates. There are such perennial questions as the acceptability of animal experiments and newer issues such as three-parent babies, neuro-enhancers and badger culling as a control measure for bovine TB.

But these positive developments have probably been outweighed by the negative ones. One negative development was the decision back in 2011 to exclude religious education (RE) from the English Baccalaureate. Despite claims at the time (which fooled no one in the know) that this should not disadvantage RE, GCSE entries have fallen, the government has slashed the number of teacher training places for RE students and continuing professional development (CPD) opportunities have diminished. Now is not a great time to be an RE teacher.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.