Catholic schools ignore law and policy

Publicly funded schools with a Catholic ethos ignore legislation and policy and successive Ministers for Education have done nothing about it. The Irish State refuses to challenge the Catholic Church even when it means they are clearly ignoring this policy and legislation.

In Ireland one of the key issues in the Primary school Curriculum is pluralism. The Curriculum says it has a responsibility to promote tolerance and respect for diversity, in both the school and the community. Despite this, State-funded schools with a Catholic ethos fundamentally object to teaching religious pluralism within schools.

The Catholic Bishops object to promoting even pluralism among religious beliefs within schools, as they believe that it goes against the philosophical basis of Catholic religious education. The Church accepts that freedom of religion is the bedrock of western democracies, but insists that promoting pluralism within schools is against their ethos.

 

What the Primary School Curriculum says

“The curriculum has a particular responsibility in promoting tolerance and respect for diversity in both the school and the community. Children come from a diversity of cultural, religious, social, environmental and ethnic backgrounds, and these engender their own beliefs, values, and aspirations. The curriculum acknowledges the centrality of the Christian heritage and tradition in the Irish experience and the Christian identity shared by the majority of Irish people. It equally recognises the diversity of beliefs, values and aspirations of all religious and cultural groups in society.”

 

The Education Act 1998 obliges recognised schools to provide education that meets the requirement of education policy as determined from time to time by the Minister.

 

What the Education Act says

Section 9 (b) of the Education Act 1998 states that:-

– A recognised school shall provide education to students which is appropriate to their abilities and needs and, without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing, it all use its available resources to-

(b) ensure that the education provided by it meets the requirement of education policy as determined from time to time by the Minister including requirement as to the provision of a curriculum as prescribed by the Minister in accordance with Section 30.

 

What the Catholic Bishops say

In a recent Submission to the National Council of Curriculum & Assessment, the Catholic Bishops said:

“2. Pluralism and freedom of religion

“These approaches require teachers to adopt and promote a pluralist approach to religion. This is an approach to religion that goes against the philosophical basis of Catholic religious education. Such a contradiction would place teachers in a very difficult position where conflicting philosophical approaches to religious education would have the potential to create significant confusion.”

 

The vast majority of our publicly funded schools are under the control of the Catholic church. The state ‘provides for’ the education of minorities in these schools while still claiming that they respect the rights of all parents and children regardless of religious or philosophical convictions.

We are in a situation whereby the Church can ignore policy and legislation and the Department of Education will do absolutely nothing about it. Regardless of legislation the Catholic church still has an iron grip on our publicly funded schools and successive Ministers for Education have not challenged that. Some Ministers for Education have made statements about challenging the power that the Catholic church has over our education system but when it came down to it they did nothing. Even when there is policy and legislation in place they refuse to ensure that the Church complies with it.

 

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