74. Religious instruction in schools is developed in diverse scholastic contexts, while always maintaining its proper character, to acquire different emphases. These depend on legal and organizational circumstances, educational theories, personal outlook of individual teachers and students as well as the relationship between religious instruction in the schools and family or parish catechesis.
Each subsection that follows references the writing/thinking of Pope John Paul II:
It is not possible to reduce the various forms of religious instruction in schools, which have developed as a result of accords between individual states and Episcopal Conferences. It is, however, necessary that efforts be made so that religious instruction in schools respond to its objectives and its own characteristics. (Cf. John Paul II, Allocution on the Symposium of the Council of the Episcopal Conference on the the Teaching of the Catholic Religion in the public school (15 April 1991): Teachings of John Paul II, XIV1, pp. 780s)
Students “have the right to learn with truth and certainty the religion to which they belong. This right to know Christ, and the salvific message proclaimed by Him cannot be neglected. The confessional character of religious instruction in schools, in its various focuses, given by the Church in different countries is an indispensible guarantee offered to families and students who choose such education”. (Cf. John Paul II, Allocution on the Symposium of the Council of the Episcopal Conference on the the Teaching of the Catholic Religion in the public school (15 April 1991): Teachings of John Paul II, XIV1, pp. 780s)
When given in the context of the Catholic school, religious instruction is part of and completed by other forms of the ministry of the word (catechesis, homilies, liturgical celebration, etc.). It is indispensible to their pedagogical function and the basis for their existence. (Cf. Catechesi Tradendae 69, Congregation for Catholic Education, The religious dimension of education in the Catholic school, n. 66: l.c)
In the context of state schools or non-confessional schools where the civil authorities or other circumstances impose the teaching of religion common to both Catholics and non Catholics (Cf. Catechesi Tradendae 33) it will have a more ecumenical character and have a more inter-religious awareness.
In other circumstances religious instruction will have an extensively cultural character and teach a knowledge of religions including the Catholic religion. In this case too and especially if presented by teachers with a sincere respect for the Christian religion, religious instruction maintains a true dimension of “evangelic preparation”.(Cf. Catechesi Tradendae 34)
There’s probably a lot to discuss on the nature of religious instruction in schools, but I’d like to zero in on the role of liturgy as being “indispensible” to the religion classes offered in Catholic schools. I suspect the pope’s thought expands to the high school, and certainly to the Sunday experience.
That last paragraph mentions yet again the expectation that school students be prepared to evangelize, as part of the experience of faith. I think of those occasional stories about pastors or principals giving students a “pass” for having attended Sunday Mass. What would be more in alignment with Church teaching here would be to give credit for bringing a friend to church.