I am American, and in America, we don’t study religion in public schools. So it’s been strange to have my own kids have religion as a school subject since the first grade, in both the UAE and Finland.
In the UAE, it was more of a non-religion class: the Muslims went to an Islamic studies class, and everyone else (regardless of specific religion) went to a kind of generic ethics and morals class.
Here in FInland, before your kids start school, they ask what religion class your kids will be attending. Notice I don’t say they ask what religion your kids are, which is a slightly different question. So when we moved here, we told the school that the girls would be attending the Lutheran religion class (the other choices were Catholic, Orthodox, Muslim, or ethics/morals classes). If there were some minimum number of kids (I think it’s six) in the class from another religion (say, Mormonism), then the school would be required to organize a separate religion class for them.
Putting them in the Lutheran class seemed like the most straightforward option, and I still think that’s true, three years later. Lutheranism is the official state religion here and so it’s just another facet of their cultural immersion in Finland.
Every once in a while I hear talk of the religion component of a Finnish public education being discontinued, or changing into a comparative religion model rather than a confessional one. We’ll see what happens, but for now I’m perfectly happy with the girls spending 1-2 lessons a week learning about religion at school.