Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has made a decision to introduce religious to Russian public schools.
Parents will choose one of six models of the class and teachers will attend courses and trainings until the end of August.
Four models are religious - basics of Orthodox Christianity, Islam, Judaism or Buddhism and the remaining two are basics world religions and secular ethics.
Religious communities will choose teachers for the first four models.
According to data from the Russian Education Ministry, the majority of students (42%) are interested in secular ethics. Around 30% of students want to attend basics of the Orthodox Christian culture, 18% want basics of the world religions, 9% want to study basics of Islam , and 1% want to enroll in basics of Buddhism.
Religious classes have already been held experimentally in 20 Russian regions and around 300,000 students have attended them.
Putin enjoys the backing of Russia's powerful Orthodox Church, its chief rabbi and its top Islamic leader as he seeks a return to the presidency next month.
The prime minister spoke to the three religious leaders ahead of presidential elections which will be held on 4 March.
"I wish to thank you. You said once that you were working like a slave on a galley. But the only difference is that a slave does not have the level of commitment to his work as you do," Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Kirill said at the meeting.
"Thanks to the Almighty, the country has been saved from ruin," added Russia's Chief Mufti Talgat Tadzhuddin. "And one must add - with your direct involvement!"
Chief Rabbi Berl Lazar for his part thanked Putin "for everything you have done for Jews."
Putin is seen as the overwhelming frontrunner in the election despite a recent admission that he may lack the 50-percent backing needed to win in the first round.
The introduction of theology in curriculums in secular institutes and universities is necessary, says the rector of Orthodox University, Hegumenos Pyotr Eremeev in an interview with the Voice of Russia.
"This will help students to get acquainted with the treasures of spiritual culture that our country is famous for. When a student of a secular university or academy is getting acquainted with the culture of Islam, Orthodoxy, Buddhism and Judaism, he will get an opportunity to understand those who live under the canons of their religions. Moreover, students who are studying the science of theology will become more educated and cultural people," Pyotr Eremeev said.
"Religious education becomes compulsory in Russia" B92 february 10, 2012
Milena Faustova, "Will Russia introduce new science?" The Voice of Russia February 10, 2012
Reproduced with permission from Islam Today