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 Religious Education in Schools

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PostSubject: Religious Education in Schools   Fri Apr 25, 2008 3:14 pm

There has been an ongoing debate on the letters pages of the Grand Old Dame of Tara Street (née D'Olier Street) regarding faith teaching in schools. Today an interesting response was given by Brian Duffy, the principal of The High School Rathgar, a very sound man.

Quote :
Madam, - Lest your readers be left with inaccurate information
about the teaching of religious education in schools under Church
of Ireland management, I would like to explain how this issue is
handled at my school, one of the largest of such schools. I suspect
the situation is similar in other schools in our group. We teach the religious education syllabus as laid down by the
Department of Education and Science, a syllabus which respectfully
considers Christianity and all other major world faiths, as well as
philosophical systems such as humanism, atheism and agnosticism.
The existence and dangers of cults are also studied, but major
world faiths are not classed as such. The conduct of the school and its entire ethos are conditioned
by the traditional liberal and tolerant approach of the Church of
Ireland. When teachers are asked difficult ethical, moral or
theological questions (and such discussion is encouraged), they
present the Church of Ireland view on the issue and follow with
discussion of other possible views as held by other faiths and by
people of no faith. In this way, the honesty of personal faith can co-exist with a
respect for diversity, encouraging pupils to understand that such
diversity is normal in the world. We find that this policy serves
our diverse school community well. - Yours, etc, BRIAN DUFFY, Principal, The High School, Rathgar, Dublin
6.


What opinions do people here hold in regard to faith teaching in our schools? Mr Duffy is certainly correct in regard to the cirriculum which now exists for Junior Certificate religious education and I believe that there is now (or will be soon) a cirriculum for Leaving Certificate Religious Education. What were the experiences of religious education during the school years of people posting here?

During my time in school there was no cirriculum for religious education (certainly no examinable one) set out by the Department of Education, I would imagine that it was the same for most people posting here, given that I appear to be the baby of the crowd. I attended a school with a strong Christian ethos, where we began each day in assembly with prayers, hymns and sermons. However, thankfully my school was also very pluralist with a history of Jewish and Muslim people attending, both from Ireland and overseas. I have to say that generally I found religious education to be exhilarating, not indoctrinating. Whilst the Christian thought was central to our classes, other opinions were welcomed and certainly never was conversation restricted to a singular and insulated outlook.
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PostSubject: Re: Religious Education in Schools   Fri Apr 25, 2008 3:28 pm

I was taught by Patrician Brothers and one of them summed up everything I think I ever needed to know about being a decent person. 'You don't have to like everyone, but you're obliged to love everyone.'

RE was poorly taught in general though Bro MM was a legend. We didn't learn about other faiths at all - which was a huge loss to all of us. The new course is good - and there is a LC option but not every school offers it.

I always enjoyed school masses and I worked hard not to bring down the standard of the Choir but we never had assembly or sermons.
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PostSubject: Re: Religious Education in Schools   Fri Apr 25, 2008 3:33 pm

Your man sounds enlightened above - Religion for me is a subject not a practice, I'm afraid. In school we had no formal subject at all - prayers during the day, Mass at Christmas in school and a retreat just before the Leaving Cert mock exams.

The first half-decent introduction I had to religion in Secondary School was in Geography in Leaving Cert when I found out that Muslims Christians and Jews all shared the same Old Testament more or less and that Muslims were as numerous as Christians.

I lie - in History before that I remember being taught about Martin Luther which impressed me no end.
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PostSubject: Re: Religious Education in Schools   Fri Apr 25, 2008 3:48 pm

Religious teaching was more or less obligitory in my school days but no one ever paid much attention to it. Lip-service. About the same standard was applied to both junior and leaving cert level. Ours was a VEC school so no major kow-towing to the Church. We had the odd mass though.
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PostSubject: Re: Religious Education in Schools   Tue Jul 08, 2008 9:39 am

Under the old system (ie, before the exam syllabus came in) there were two types of religion class; one where you had a solid religion teacher dealing with issues of faith, doctrine and values and the other other where people dossed for forty minutes and had 'discussion' on various issues.

Do we need some kind of faith or values-based education in our schools? The new curriculum, because it's exam based, has a different outcome, as exam orientated subjects always do.

Junior Cert students can often be heard saying they don't want to study it because it's not a proper academic subject and in LC where most students don't sit the exam, they don't want to study it because they'd rather spend time on more academic subjects. Or in both cases, enjoy a forty minuted doss/respite.
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PostSubject: Re: Religious Education in Schools   Tue Jul 08, 2008 1:45 pm

Kate P wrote:
Under the old system (ie, before the exam syllabus came in) there were two types of religion class; one where you had a solid religion teacher dealing with issues of faith, doctrine and values and the other other where people dossed for forty minutes and had 'discussion' on various issues.

Do we need some kind of faith or values-based education in our schools? The new curriculum, because it's exam based, has a different outcome, as exam orientated subjects always do.

Junior Cert students can often be heard saying they don't want to study it because it's not a proper academic subject and in LC where most students don't sit the exam, they don't want to study it because they'd rather spend time on more academic subjects. Or in both cases, enjoy a forty minuted doss/respite.

This is also the problem with CSPE which is really where values of citizenship should be instilled. The CSPE syllabus is a farce for a start because it assumes an awful lot of things that shouldn't be assumed in modern Ireland - a homogenous society etc. But furthermore, the fact that it isn't examinable at Leaving Cert level and the fact that you can accrue most of your marks through continuous assessment means that it is very much a second order subject and treated as such by students and teachers alike. Consequently, it may as well not be taught under the present situation. I was the second year to sit it for the Junior Cert and that is how it was and we studied the syllabus in my final year in Politics at UCD a couple of years ago and that is how it remains.
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PostSubject: Re: Religious Education in Schools   Tue Jul 08, 2008 2:09 pm

johnfás wrote:
Kate P wrote:
Under the old system (ie, before the exam syllabus came in) there were two types of religion class; one where you had a solid religion teacher dealing with issues of faith, doctrine and values and the other other where people dossed for forty minutes and had 'discussion' on various issues.

Do we need some kind of faith or values-based education in our schools? The new curriculum, because it's exam based, has a different outcome, as exam orientated subjects always do.

Junior Cert students can often be heard saying they don't want to study it because it's not a proper academic subject and in LC where most students don't sit the exam, they don't want to study it because they'd rather spend time on more academic subjects. Or in both cases, enjoy a forty minuted doss/respite.

This is also the problem with CSPE which is really where values of citizenship should be instilled. The CSPE syllabus is a farce for a start because it assumes an awful lot of things that shouldn't be assumed in modern Ireland - a homogenous society etc. But furthermore, the fact that it isn't examinable at Leaving Cert level and the fact that you can accrue most of your marks through continuous assessment means that it is very much a second order subject and treated as such by students and teachers alike. Consequently, it may as well not be taught under the present situation. I was the second year to sit it for the Junior Cert and that is how it was and we studied the syllabus in my final year in Politics at UCD a couple of years ago and that is how it remains.

Yeah the CSPE course is an absolute joke but it is currently being reformed. The Department of Education are also working on a draft syllabus for an optional Leaving Certificate subject, to be called Politics and Society.
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PostSubject: Re: Religious Education in Schools   Tue Jul 08, 2008 7:42 pm

Kate P - I seem to remember some sort of new religion/world view curriculum on a trial basis in some schools three or four years back - it was stopped half way through the year with no explanation. I rang the Department of Education and asked why and I can't for the life of me remember the answer. I would be sure that neither parents nor children were consulted. Does this ring any bells with you?
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PostSubject: Re: Religious Education in Schools   Tue Jul 08, 2008 9:36 pm

No, but it's one worth looking into. Best friend is a religion teacher - I'll find out tomorrow.

It could well be the one that's in force at the moment, which does have world view at both junior and senior cycle.
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