Atheist Ireland asks Oireachtas Education Committee to support objective sex education
Atheist Ireland has made a comprehensive submission to the Oireachtas Education Committee, asking it to support objective sex education in Irish schools, based on the framework of Solidarity’s Objective Sex Education Bill.
Our four recommendations to the Oireachtas Education Committee are:
1. Objective content
Atheist Ireland supports:
- the mandatory provision in Irish schools of sexual and reproductive health education targeted at adolescent girls and boys, as recommended by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child in 2016;
- a single consistent curriculum for relationships and sexuality education across all schools, as recommended by the Ombudsman for Children in 2016; and
- scientifically objective, standardised, age-appropriate education on sexual and reproductive health and rights, as recommended by the UN Committee on Elimination of Discrimination against Women in 2017.
In the Dail debate on Solidarity’s Objective Sex Education Bill in 2018, the Minister for Education acknowledged that young people have the right to get such factual information about sexual matters.
2. Objective Delivery
Having factual content is not enough, if that content is delivered through the religious ethos of a school patron body. As well as the content being factual:
- the content must be delivered in an objective, critical and pluralistic manner that avoids indoctrination, as part of the curriculum outside of optional religion classes, as recommended by the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission in 2015; while
- ensuring a neutral studying environment, including in denominational schools, outside the confines of optional religious instruction classes, as raised with Ireland by the UN Human Rights Committee in 2014.
3. Legal Changes
In order for the content to be delivered objectively without religious influence, the law will have to be amended, because the NCCA has no legal power over how the curriculum is delivered.
Instead, the school patron bodies can choose to deliver the curriculum according to their own religious ethos.
The legal changes required include amending Sections 9(d), 15(2)(b) and 30(2)(b) of the Education Act, which have been identified as problems by the NCCA in 2017, and which are referred to in Solidarity’s Objective Sex Education Bill in 2018.
4. Solidarity’s Bill
Atheist Ireland supports Solidarity’s Objective Sex Education Bill, which broadly proposes the approach that we recommend. It provides a solid framework for any improvements that members of the Committee might suggest.
Contents of our submission
1. Introduction to Atheist Ireland
2. Overview of the Problem
4. Catholic Church Guidelines on Curriculum RSE
5. Catholic Preschool and Primary RE Curriculum
6. Catholic Influence on State-run ETB schools
7. Balancing the Constitutional Rights Involved
8. The Right to Freedom of Conscience
9. Irish Human Rights & Equality Commission 2015
10. Ombudsman for Children 2016
11. United Nations Rights on Sex Education
12. UN Committee on Rights of the Child 2016
13. Atheist Ireland and UN CEDAW 2017
14. UN Human Rights Committee 2014
15. Circular 0037/2010 and the European Social Charter
16. Circular 0037/2010 and the Need to Consult with Parents
17. Legal Limitations of the NCCA on Objective Delivery
18. The Catholic Church opposes Objective Delivery
19. The Department of Education and Religious Ethos
20. The Primary School Curriculum and Religious Ethos
21. Conclusion and Repeat of Recommendations
Read our full submission