Hanna de Jong-Markus

Chapter 1 12 1.1 Problem Statement The motivation behind this research is the increased religious diversity in society and the ensuing, commonly heard call for more social cohesion. Citizenship education is seen as a way that could contribute to strengthening this social cohesion. For strong religious schools, and more specifically orthodox Protestant primary schools (OPPSs), however, dealing with a religiously diverse society raises specific questions. For example, tolerance—conceivedasacentral value fordealingwellwithdiversity ina liberal democratic society—might not always be self-evident for these schools. To strengthen citizenship education within OPPSs it is important that the teachers be best equipped for the task, because they play a key role in how questions of religious particularity and diversity are dealt with in educational practice. However, there is little empirical understanding of how teachers in OPPSs handle the context of religious diversity in relation to the monoreligious characteristics of their schools, and what this means for how teacher education can best prepare future teachers to provide citizenship education. If we are committed to society and the future generation, it is necessary to gain more insights in this respect. By doing so, we are connecting to the drive that many teachers feel and that was put by one of the teachers I interviewed as follows: I want to be some sort of an idealistic improver. I want all children to be happy in their education and to make the most of all the talents they have been given. I want to show that everyone has their own strengths (...), because Jesus also shows differences1 to children and to the people around Him. And I think we can do that for each other as well. We have an obligation to help each other. (...) And so you try to create a bit of a peaceful society and prepare the children as well as possible for the future. (Jasmijn; translation by the author)2 This problem statement will be further elaborated in the following sections, where I will focus on the increased diversity and the call for social cohesion in society, the place of citizenship education in Dutch schools, the meaning of religious diversity in strong religious schools, and the teaching profession and teacher education. Next, I will introduce the research question and research aims of this doctoral dissertation, and provide an outline of the chapters, identifying my role and responsibilities as well as those of other contributors. 1 Note, in this quotation it is about different qualities of people and not about religious differences per se. 2 To increase the readability of the quotations, the verbatim transcribed text is slightly adjusted throughout the dissertation.