Hanna de Jong-Markus

Chapter 5 88 In order to add empirical insights to the discussions about social cohesion and religious socialization in schools, we aim for a better understanding of how religious socialization actually functions at strong religious schools.42 Therefore we present a qualitative descriptive study on the perceptions of teachers at orthodox Protestant primary schools (OPPSs). Teachers’ beliefs are important for they guide the teachers’ thought and behavior (Borg, 2001). However, thus far, the opinions of teachers themselves have been mentioned only as a peripheral issue in a limited number of studies (Bertram-Troost et al., 2015b; De Muynck, 2008). In a previous study, we already concluded that the participating teachers perceive education and Christian socialization as inseparable (Markus et al., 2018). Now, we will focus on how they understand their role as pedagogical agents in religious socialization and whether it differs from the roles of other pedagogical agents. We use the term “pedagogical agents” for those who intentionally care for children’s religious upbringing (e.g., teachers, parents, and Sunday school teachers). The focus on the potential differences is especially interesting since orthodox Protestants traditionally stress the cohesion and cooperation among the school, church, and family when it comes to religious socialization (Alii, 2009; Spoelstra, 2017). Our research question is: What do teachers in OPPSs perceive as their role in religious socialization, especially in relation to other pedagogical agents? Our results are also of interest for the international audience, since the reasons why religious schools are valued in religious communities are comparable in different countries (Markus et al., 2018). Our focus on the cooperation in religious socialization relates to educational partnership (regularly referred to as parental involvement), which means the equal cooperation of parents and schools in light of the development of children, both in terms of improving learning outcomes and strengthening the community of values (Epstein, 2001; Prins et al., 2013). Epstein (2001) highlights that practices and discussions about the education of children should start with clarity on the roles of schools, families, and communities. To answer our research question, we will use three perspectives in the analysis of our data: first, we investigate teachers’ professional ideals, specifically the significance of their religious ideals; second, teachers’ perceptions of their roles in relation to other pedagogical agents; and, third, what teachers believe and say about “inquisitiveness.” This last perspective can be seen as exemplary for how teachers view their distinct roles. Before we present our empirical study, we will provide background information about the OPPSs and about professional ideals. 42 It is beyond the scope of this article to determine whether religious socialization in schools is legitimized because that depends on many factors (MacMullen, 2018).