This study focuses on the encounter between students who postition themselves within a religious tradition and the Swedish school system´s mandatory, integrative and non-confessional subject Religious Education.
The aim of the study is to show how students who position themselves within a religious tradition speak about the school's religious education. The interest is directed towards three themes. Firstly, the encounter between teaching content and the students experiences of their own religious tradition and faith. A second theme deals with the issue of being representatives of their own tradition in the classroom. A third theme addresses how the students describe the framework and conditions for religious education. The empirical material consists of twenty-one group- and individual interviews with students ages 16-19 from Muslim, Jewish, Christian and Buddhist traditions. Social constructionist theory provides the basis and critical discourse analysis is used as theoretical and analytical approach.
The results show that all the students in the study find it difficult to recognise and relate to their own tradition in the framework of religious education. According to the students, religious traditions are presented in a shallow, stereotypical and fact-oriented manner with a focus on history, strict rules and obedience. Another finding is summarised in the discourse "religious positioning as an independent choice". These articulations are understood as a resistance discourse. It seems necessary for the students to challenge what they perceive as dominant discourses of religion and religious life, as expressed in the religious education classroom, in school and in society. For some students, representing their own tradition in the classroom, is discribed as a selfimposed position allowing them to defend and give a more nuanced picture of their own tradition. Most students, however, describe the position of being a faith representative in the classroom as assigned and undesirable.
Within the discourse "the neutral religious education", teaching is described as tightly regulated by the requirements of neutrality, objectivity and fairness. In the light of students' talk about other school subjects (NO and Philosophy), it is possible to understand ”the neutral religious education” as part of a wider secular, possibly secularist discourse, where the school fosters critical thinking and imposes a strict scientific worldview, where religion and religious beliefs are dismissed, ridiculed and denied. Although the students criticise the teaching, they value the subject´s potential of contributing to tolerance and mutual understanding.
Implications of the findings are discussed in relation to the teachers didactical choices, the classroom practice and the aims of Religious Education.