The Oslo Coalition on Freedom of Religion or Belief


Teaching for Tolerance, and Freedom of Religion or Belief:

Register of curriculum projects and pedagogical approaches



The Norwegian KRL* subject


(* Norwegian acronym for ”Christianity, Religion, Life Stances”)





Religious Education in public school








Norwegian Board of Education (Laeringssenteret), Postboks 2924 Tøyen, 0608 Oslo (








Religious Studies, Theology, Philosophy




Non-confessional/multifaith, but with a Christian emphasis in quantitative terms. Since the subject gives more space to the teaching about Christianity and the dominant Lutheran heritage of Norway than to other religions (and confessions), the characterisation "non-confessional" is contestable. The reasons given for allowing more space for Christianity are, however, historical and contextual rather than confessional.




Heid Leganger-Krogstad: "Dialogue among young citizens in a pluralistic religious education classroom", in Robert Jackson (ed.): International Persrpectives on Citizenship, Education and Religious Diversity. London: RoutledgeFalmer 2003.


Geir Skeie: "Nationalism, Religiosity and Citizenship in Norwegian Majority and Minority Discourses", in Robert Jackson (ed.): International Persrpectives on Citizenship, Education and Religious Diversity. London: RoutledgeFalmer 2003.


Oddbjørn Leirvik: The Current Debate about Religious Education and Freedom of Religion in Norway. Paper for the conference "Religious education and Education in Religions", Swedish Institute in Alexandria, 18-21 September 2002.


Trond Enger: "The new legislation on RE in Norwegian schools: a new role for world religions", i: Religious Education, Europe and Young People. A collection of papers providing a perspective from different European countries for the 21st Century, ed.: Roger B. Howard, European Association for World Religions in Education 2002.


Heid Leganger-Krogstad: Concepts and Experiences with Non-Confessional Religious Education in Norway. Lecture at Expertentagung "Religiou und Kultur", Zürich 16. December 2002.


Heid Leganger-Krogstad ("Religious Education in a Global Perspective: A Contextual Approach"), in Hans-Günther Heimbrock, Christoph Th. Scheilke, Peter Schreiner (eds.): Towards Religious Competence. Diversity as a Challenge for Education in Europe. Schriften aus dem Comenius-Institut, Band 3. Münster-Hamburg-Berlin-London: LIT Verlag 2001.


Trond Enger: "Religious Education for all Pupils stands Trial - the Norwegian Experience after three years", i: Panorama. International Journal of comparative Religious Education and Values (Tyskland) Winter 2001, pp. 77-87.


Tarald Rasmussen: ”The New Norwegian ’KRL’ Subject and Religious Freedom: A report”, in Studia Theologica 54 (2000), pp. 19-34.


Oddbjørn Leirvik: Theology, Religious Studies and Religious Education, as seen from Norway", in Diversity as Ethos. Challenges for Interreligious and Intercultural Education, eds. David Chidester, Janet Stonier and Judy Tobler, pp.140-154. Rondebosch: ICRSA, University of Cape Town 1999.


Halldis Breidlid and Tove Nicolaisen: "Stories and Storytelling in Religious Education in Norway". In Diversity as Ethos. Challenges for Interreligious and Intercultural Education, eds. David Chidester, Janet Stonier and Judy Tobler, pp.75-83. Rondebosch: ICRSA, University of Cape Town 1999.


Trond Enger: "Religious Education for all Pupils – the Norwegian Way", i: Panorama. International Journal of comparative Religious Education and Values (Tyskland) Winter 1998, pp. 122-134.




The national curriculum of 1997 is available in English (> ”Christian Knowledge and Religious and Ethical education”). The curriculum was revised in 2002, being now less detailed and leaving more space for local adaptations.


Textbooks for the grades 1 to 10 are produced under the following headings, by three  different publishing houses:








The present Norwegian model for RE that was introduced in 1997. It is compulsory and does not have any clear ”confessional” basis. It can be sees as a part of the tendency in several countries to provide multi-religious education for all pupils. One of the main aims of the subject is to provide tolerance and understanding between religions by providing knowledge about different traditions and facilitating dialogue about common values in multi-religious societies. This aim is also the reason why the subject is compulsory for children of all faiths, with only a limited right to exemption from certain parts of it (for instance activities that might seen as parts of religious rituals). However, the subject gives quantitative preference to the Christian tradition, teaching about which is supposed to occupy 55% of the total time spent on the national curriculum. Although this can be modified by local adaptations, the quantitative preference for ”the Christian cultural heritage”  


General aims


The general aims of the subject read as follows:



The aim of acquainting pupils with world religions and life philosophies as ” living sources of faith, morality, and views of life” means that the subject aims not merely at ”learning about” religions, but also at ”learing from” the great traditions. It does not provide, however, religious instruction (”learning religion”) in a confessional or cathecetical sense.


Main pedagogical approaches


The curriculum (and the Education Act) emphasise that despite of its quantitative emphasis on Christianity, the subject is non-confessional and the same pedagogical methods should be applied in all parts of the subject. Regarding pedagogical methods, the curriculum emphasises narrative and aestetical approaches to world religions and life philosophies. Ethics and philosophy are dealt with as separate issues. As for the grades 1-7, the KRL subject presupposes a system-oriented approach which implies that each religion/life philosophy tradition should be dealt with as a separate entitity and ”on its own terms”. For the grades 8-10, the curriculum invites a more thematic and comparative approach.




Even though the subject shall provide knowledge about other religions as well as secular worldviews, it has got a basic emphasis on knowledge about Christianity and the Christian cultural heritage of Norway. The combination of a main focus on Christian knowledge and a limited right to exemption has made the subject controversial among parents of different minority groups. Also, the public school act points at Christian morals as a basic foundation for the school education in general, in addition to tolerance and freedom of thought. Many minority parents and communities have been sceptical to the strong emphasis on Christianity and "Christian and humanisitc" values in the KRL subject. The humanists and the Muslims fear that the relative dominance of teaching about Christianity in the subject may influence their children to see the Christian faith as better than other faiths and life stances. Both Muslim and humanist parents – represented by the Norwegian Humanist Association and the Islamic Council Norway – have sued the Norwegian state for eliminating the right of full excemption and hence also the right to establish alternative subjects (Prior to the new subject, three different alternatives were offered: (1) Christian education (2) Life Stances (3) No religious education in school at all, with the possibility of offering confessional instruction in e.g. Islam instead.)


On the other hand, the majority of the parents – belonging mostly to the (Evangelical-Lutheran) Church of Norway – appear to be satisfied with the new subject. The authorities argue that the dominant role of Christianity in the subject can be legitimised because of the role of Christianity in the Norwegian history and the fact that 90% of the Norwegian population belong to the Christian denominations (as many as 85% belong to the Church of Norway, the Evangelical Lutheran State Church). The school authorities are also reluctant to make the subject optional as they see it as an important arena for providing necessary knowledge and dialogue in an increasingly multi-religious society.


The above presentation is part of a database developed by
The Oslo Coalition on Freedom of Religion or Belief.

This entry: August 2003