Me, You and Religious Diversity

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Transcript Me, You and Religious Diversity

Rethinking Religious Education in Ireland: Pluralism, Diversity and Methodology ’

Presentation by

Dr. Thomas Grenham and Dr. Patricia Kieran MIC Research Showcase Day September 2013

This Research:

1. Funded by MIC Research Seed Funding. Research leading to the publication of a co-authored book. Contract secured.

2. Book presents a synopsis of current scholarly literature (Part 1) & diverse methodologies (Part 2) for teaching Religious Education in Ireland. Researchers engage in field work in schools & semi-structured interviews.

To date: On site visits to primary school.

Undertaking a series of voluntary semi-structured interviews (MIREC Clearance) with key thinkers and leaders, from a variety of traditions and sectors, in the area of Religious and Ethical Education in Ireland (all over 18 years old). Focus on questions about the place of religious education in the primary school system; the place of religions and beliefs in contemporary Irish society; and the function and future of RE and education about religions and beliefs in primary schools.

Census Results for Ireland 2011

• • • • • • • Roman Catholic 84.2% Church of Ireland 2.8% Orthodox 1% Islam 1.1% No religion 5.9% Undeclared 1.6% Other 3.4%


Should primary school children be taught about beliefs like atheism and agnosticism? When? How?

With growing cultural diversity and religious plurality, the teaching of religion & beliefs has become a focal point for academic and public debate about education, society and personal identity in Ireland. Radically new practices emerge in classrooms – academic literature is playing catch up…..

Traditionally in Ireland schools were divided into Either or Category: A. Confessional / forming children in faith either mono-denominational or inter-denominational


B. Multidenominational – providing broad learning experiences about a variety of religions and beliefs

Ireland’s Primary Schools

A. Confessional Schools primarily forms children in engage in learning about and from diverse beliefs. faith – experiential/formative faith based programmes (Catholic, Church of Ireland, Jewish, Methodist, Muslim, Presbyterian, Inter-denominational schools etc. ). Confessional schools may also OR (Since 2008 Community National Schools are the exception as they are multi-belief - engage in both A & B) B. Multidenominational Schools – Educate children in an informed empathetic and experiential manner learning religious perspectives. about and from a range of beliefs and provide broad learning experiences about religions and beliefs including humanist/ atheistic/ non-

Research involves a detailed literature review of existing national and international scholarly work in the area of Religious Education (Part 1) as well as an outline of pedagogies and strategies relevant for teaching in (formational), from (transformational) and about (informational) religions and beliefs (secular and religious), in diverse types of primary schools in Ireland (Part 2).

In policy and practice there is an increasing recognition that Education about and for diversity of Religions and Beliefs is a crucial aspect of any education system in a liberal democracy involving diverse types of schools including faith schools Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948 (Art.2; 16; 18; 19) Declaration of the Rights of the Child 1959 (Principle 1; 10)

Primary School Curriculum DES 1999

Intercultural Guidelines NCCA 2006

Toledo Guiding Principles on Teaching About Religions and

Beliefs OSCE 2007

Council of Europe: Religious diversity and intercultural

education 2007 The Cambridge Primary Review (2009) REDCo research Religious Education Dialogue Conflict REMC Religious Education in a Multicultural Society Report of the Forum on Patronage and Pluralism in the

Primary Sector (2012)

Inverview with Minister Ruairi Quinn Minister in DES

Recorded 30 minute interview in DES. ‘How can you be educated if you

know nothing about religions?.... ‘religious education is part of a vital set of tools that people need if they are to be active citizens and if they are to make informed choices about

issues’. Minister Ruairi Quinn.

• • In Ireland Catholic schools account for a total of 92% of the 96% faith based schools in the country. There has been growing public debate concerning the adequacy of faith based schools in Ireland to cater for the needs of a more religiously diverse and secular society. Interview with John Coolahan. The Forum addressed the issue of the adequacy of Ireland’s overwhelmingly (96%) denominational primary school system to serve the learning needs of a belief diverse democratic society. • • Extraordinary level of public interest in Faith and Schooling in Ireland Forum on Patronage cited in the Programme for Government in 2011.

Chair of Forum on Patronage & Pluralism •

Prof. John Coolahan

Contributed significantly to understanding the


issues surrounding religion, education and patronage in Ireland,


international dimension. of


consultation with stakeholders especially children. Solicitous of the


of majority and



• Sustained reflection on


/ approaches applied to RI, RE, ERB in Ireland.

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin

“These are challenging times. They are, however, great times to be involved in education. For the first time in generations there is real ferment in Irish educational reflection as we take a fundamental new look at our entire educational system. There is a sense of common search for a new and integrated educational policy which responds to the needs of today and tomorrow. ”

• • • Policy shift -New curricular focus on education about Religion and Belief (ERB)and Ethics in Primary School Curriculum Term belief covers people of religious, personal and secular conviction – Forum on Patronage and Pluralism Rationale: No one religion or belief system is the exclusive or universal source of truth for the planet’s 7 bn. inhabitants The promotion of co-operation, tolerance, as well as improved understanding and relationships between different religions and belief systems is key.

Council of Europe: Rationale for educating about diversity of religions and belief in educational contexts

Tolerance Report of Forum p.7f.

Reciprocity Civic mindedness

See John Keast, ed., Religious Diversity and

Intercultural Education: A Reference Book for

Schools (Strasbourg: Council of Europe, 2007)

Most frequent google searches ‘Why are Muslims/Christians so….

Book explores reasons for teaching about religious diversity and beliefs in Irish primary schools: 1. Socio-cultural arguments 2. Anti-racist argument – eliminate prejudice & ignorance – Human Rights 3. To prevent conflict –John Bowker states that religion is likely to cause future world conflict 4. To help children refine their own beliefs 5. To prevent indoctrination – not to educate children about religion/belief would be to inculcate an anti religious/anti-belief bias 6. To live out the requirements of being a good person as Agnostic/Atheist/Buddhist/Christian/Hin du/ Jew/Muslim/ Sikh etc.

Irish Classrooms are culturally and religiously diverse

Divesting of school patronage is one key aspect of multiple changes in Educational Policy at Primary Level • • • Others include Emergence of new types of schools (e.g. CNS).

Introduction of Education about Religion and Beliefs (ERB) and Ethics in primary schools/Colleges of Education. New curricula (e.g. Catholic/ GMGY) & approaches to teaching which acknowledge, support, and celebrate a diversity of religions and beliefs Ireland.

  Forum attempts to ensure that all primary schools in Ireland respect, celebrate and recognise diversity of belief and groups recognised.

Story to date

national, local and school community. Rights of minority Underlying assumption of Forum is that different religions and beliefs must be respected and valued, through provision of choice of school, in Patronage of schools, in school curriculum and community. Diverse religions, beliefs and ethics are of relevance to total school community, educational system, society and state.

Report of the Forum on Patronage and Pluralism in the Primary Sector 2012

Ireland is now divesting (or transferring) patronage of certain existing schools (Catholic) where there is evidence of parental demand for a different ethos. (38 areas identified – process underway parental surveys completed) Government wishes to explore strategies to provide a sufficiently diverse range of primary schools catering for all religions and none (historic Report p.6) and to ensure that all children/teachers have basic standards of religious and belief literacy (ERB and Ethics).

Minister Quinn


For many parents this will be the first time they will have a real say in the type of primary school they want their children to go to, whether it is denominational, multi-denominational, all-Irish or other…… there should be a public consultation process on the findings and recommendations in the report with regard to promoting more inclusiveness in schools, particularly in 'Stand Alone Schools' where transfer of patronage is not an option


Educational Policy changes in Report from the Forum on Patronage and Pluralism (2012)

RE timetabled to facilitate ‘opt out’ for stand alone schools (1,700 approx.) in relation to faith formation Every school should have a display wall on which all beliefs in the school could be represented.

Education about Religion and Beliefs (ERB) and Ethics should be taught in all schools. Implications for teacher formation & in-service programmes.

All primary schools should celebrate festivals of different beliefs.

Historic Change in Policy

If the recommendations of the Forum on ERB are implemented then


schools will (confessional and multi-denominational) engage in ERB. For the first time in the history of the State the organs of the state – NCCA – has a direct input into designing and monitoring the curriculum for education about religion & beliefs (ERB) in primary schools. Recommendations for ITE programmes also.

Move RE in all denominational Irish schools beyond exclusively confessional/multi-d. RE and out of the exclusive remit of Patrons, into mandatory multi-belief State designed ERB programme. No opt out for teachers, parents, children in schools or pre-service teacher programmes.

Policy Changes in Forum’s Recommendations

Religion in Primary Schools Sacramental preparation not to encroach on time for general curriculum Stand alone schools – confessional RE taught as a discrete subject 7.2

Abolition of Rule 68 (Religious spirit should vivify the whole school day, RI is most important part of the curriculum) Religious celebrations in schools should be inclusive P10 (views of young people).

Impact on Faith Schools?

John Henry Newman

‘To live is to change…………to be perfect is to change often.’

Reception of the Report

Concluding Questions

In a faith school can RE be taught as a discrete subject? What kind of ERB? What methodologies? What timetabling arrangements? If in objective value-free manner is this superficial, religious /belief tourism?

Does removal of Rule 68 (and in some schools sacramental preparation) undermine school ethos/ fabric of integrated curriculum in Faith Schools?

Meddling with existing system – is this enough? Allocation of additional time/resources/in-service for ERB?


John M. Hull, The Contribution of Religious Education to Religious Freedom: A Global Perspective (2001) < Religious%20Freedom.html

> [accessed 5 September 2012].

John Keast, ed., Religious Diversity and Intercultural Education: A Reference Book for Schools (Strasbourg: Council of Europe, 2007).

Anne Looney, ‘Religious Education in the Public Space: Challenges and Contestations’, in International Handbook of the Religious, Moral and Spiritual Dimensions in Education, ed. by de Souza, M. et al. (Dordrecht: Springer, 2006).

Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, ODIHR, Advisory Council of Experts on Freedom of Religion and Belief, Toledo Guiding Principles on Teaching about Religions and Beliefs in Public Schools (2007) < documents/toledo_guidelines.pdf

> [accessed 20 March 2013].

Ruairí Quinn TD, Response to Report of the Advisory Group on the Forum on Patronage and Pluralism in the Primary Sector (June 20 oc=57707 th 2012) < home.jsp?maincat=&pcategory=10861&ecategory=11469§ionpage=12251&language=EN&link=link001&page=1&d > [accessed 20 March 2013].

Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference, Catholic Primary Schools: A Policy for Provision into the Future (Dublin: Veritas, 2007).