Relevance of religion in youth revealed
The Youth on Religion research project, which was led by Brunel University over the course of two years, gathered the perceptions and attitudes of young people towards religion, what religion meant to their lives and wider society. In doing so, they surveyed 10,500 high school pupils from two boroughs of London and Bradford, with the most prominent religions amongst the group being Islam (35%) and Christianity (31%). Leeds Metropolitan researchers Dr Sarah Kingston and Professor Colin Webster focused on young people in the Bradford and Keighley region.
An online survey was completed by the pupils within classroom time at 43 schools, giving the team insightful statistical information, such as 48% of pupils across the whole of the study stating that they definitely believe in God. Following the surveys, 147 sixth form students were selected to take part in 27 focus groups, interviews and an e-journal to delve deeper into what religion meant to them.
In Bradford, Dr Kingston and Professor Webster spoke to groups of between six and eight pupils and made a video with some young people, which have been given back to schools to use for discussions and information about religion and young people in Bradford.
Dr Kingston commented: "Talking to the students was incredibly interesting. We were very surprised at the high percentage that believed in God and at the array of individual meanings that religion held for them. I was particularly interested in the Hijab or headscarf worn by some female Muslim students in Bradford, as they were often so colourful, stylish and elaborate. Rather than being forced to wear the Hijab, as some people have assumed, it was evident that these Muslim young women gave considerable thought to how they wore the head scarf and did so in their own individual ways. In addition, they described their own pathways and the reasons why they did or did not wear a headscarf at various points in their lives."
Following the focus groups, 34 of these students from all three areas of the study completed e-journals over the summer of 2010 using a special online system devised by learning technologists at Leeds Metropolitan University that could only be accessed by the students and the research team.
The aim of the e-journals was to capture the young people's thoughts about religion in their own time and in their own way, over a six week period, allowing for shifts and developments in their views and beliefs. Pupils without easy access to a computer were given paper scrapbooks.
After the summer, the e-journal participants put themselves into pairs and talked with the researchers further, discussing more personal opinions and experiences. All interviews were then transcribed and analysed, which is to be the basis of a book entitled 'Youth on Religion' to be published by Routledge.