Year 9 (Block 3)
In Block 3, students study PRE (Philosophy, Religion and Ethics) for two periods a week. The course leads into the BAC PRE course in Blocks 4 and 5.
The whole Block 3 PRE course centres around the idea of narratives: how stories can aid a depth of understanding and thoughtful analysis of big ideas. In the Autumn term, Block 3s consider the sense in which myths can convey truth, and create their own creation myths. Then, using some lesser-studied parables of Jesus, we consider some highly contentious ethical questions about forgiveness, the meaning of life, and whether intentions matter more than consequences.
In the Spring Term, to complement their work on the First World War, and prior to the Battlefields trip, students complete a podcast project on the subject ‘Where is God in War?’ which requires philosophical argument, persuasive speaking, and empathetic engagement with issues of war and peace. When they return after Half Term, we then study Buddhist tales, and relate their messages to tough dilemmas about how we should live.
The course ends in the Summer Term with a focus on stories told in philosophy to get a particularly difficult point across. By looking at these thought experiments, students will be able to engage with topics not usually taught until university level, such as the possibility of Artificial Intelligence and the nature of justice.
Years 10 & 11 (Blocks 4 & 5)
Philosophy, Religion & Ethics
What is good? What is beautiful? What is truth? Is religion part of human nature? These questions lead those who ask them to the winding country roads, blind alleys and even roundabouts of philosophical thought. This BAC aims to introduce students to the problems of philosophy, religion and ethics and start them on the uncertain but engrossing search for truth. Amongst other things we study different concepts of reality, ideas of God, the relationship of religion to art, the foundations of ethics, eastern religion, key concepts in philosophy, and engage in the ambitious project of describing our individual concepts of utopia.
The assessment of the BAC includes a 'Thinking Journal', coursework, oral presentations, a written exam and opportunities to give a creative response to PRE-related subject-matter.
One of the first two BACs to be created, the BAC in PRE has gained a lot of interest from Religious Studies teachers in the UK and abroad (read a feature about the course in Dialogue Australasia).
View the BAC PRE course overview here.
Religious Studies: Philosophy of Religion and Ethics
This stimulating course explores the fundamental questions addressed by philosophers and religious traditions about the nature and origins of human existence, questions of morality, destiny and God. Through discussion and careful analysis of the most influential secular and religious viewpoints in history, students will not only develop their powers of self-expression through debating issues of ultimate significance, but also develop the capacity for coherent and well balanced argument.
A course equally at home within a diet of Arts or Science A Levels, Philosophy of Religion, Ethics and Buddhism covers, over the two years, all the core questions: What is the mind? What, if anything happens when we die? Can ethical rules adequately prescribe what we should do in particular situations? Should we believe a miracle account if more people claim to have seen it? Should laws governing how we live and die be changed? Is our experience of the world separable from the ‘real world’? Is ‘good’ just a matter of social agreement? What can we know for certain? Does the idea of God make any sense? Does the beauty of the world point to God? Can you doubt that 2+2=4?
New from 2016, for the first time we are able to teach not only the Philosophy of the West, but also Buddhist Philosophy as part of the new linear A Level. Buddhism was chosen in part because of the expertise we have in the department already. Importantly, though, we also surveyed the students and found that Buddhism was an option they really got enthusiastic about.
Those more inclined to the Arts will naturally enjoy the discursive, seminar-style lessons and the chance to discuss the 'big' questions in an open-minded way. Scientists may choose this course in order to give a feeling of balance to their Sixth Form choices, and may see RS as an important essay subject to have. Many of those considering Biology, Veterinary Medicine, Medicine, Genetics, and other related courses find that Ethics in particular is directly related to their subject choices, and extremely useful.
Examining Board: OCR
Head of Department: Clare Jarmy
Read an article about Bedales and religion
Watch a video on Philosophy, Religion and Ethics at Bedales Schools
Follow the Bedales PRE Twitter account.
Read profile of an Old Bedalian who has followed a career in philosophy: Miranda Fricker