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Wednesday 16 April 2008

Separated religious teaching in schools, it might sound like the only good compromise but it doesn't work.

After the notion that the church could have a veto on each teacher in a primary school full of many different religions was rejected (that I blogged about previously) the debate moved on to how it will be actually thought in the new schools and the consensus among the religious and the mainstream was that children could be separated during the school day and guest clergy could teach each religion denominationally rather then teaching an overview of religion and ethics to all students at the same time.

David Quinn (Indo's religious hack) writes of three options

As to the second question, how should religion be taught, there are three basic options. One is to teach the children their own religion separately and during school hours. The second is to teach them a generic religion course, and the third is to teach them their separate religions outside of school time, but on the school premises.
And says he rejects the third and writes that the second is the only option...
So it looks like there is little practical alternative to teaching the various religions to the various sets of children during school hours.
Yet in the very same paper Educate Together CEO Paul Rowe refutes this and actually gives example of how when ET's started they were forced to do in-school separate religion teaching and he explains it just didn't work...
In some of our early schools we were compelled to adopt an approach similar to that being proposed in this pilot. It proved to be educationally unsound and led to difficult and complex negotiations that have resulted in the current Educate Together model in which children are not segregated according to religion within the statutory school day. In contrast, the VEC pilot as announced involves the compulsory registration and separation of children from the age of 4 according to their parents’ religion. Such practices have been shown to be socially divisive, unethical and educationally flawed. In a primary school class, they critically impinge on the socialisation of children and are counter-productive to the aim of preparing young people for a society in which religious discrimination is illegal.
He expands on the ad hoc setting up of here new VECs on the ET website and points out the DQ third option is the only workable option they found in practice.

A COI priest writes how segregated teaching of multiple religious would be chaos and describes the practical difficulties in his experience of it at a secondary VEC school...

Firstly, the pupils were often from different classes, so while in some cases the Protestant pupils would be receiving religious instruction at the same time as the Roman Catholics, in other cases they would be missing a maths, Irish or English class...
Although there are some differences between the teaching of secondary and primary we must keep in mind.

John Carr general secretay of INTO is personally in favour of non-denominational teaching but hasn't been clear enough enough on this issue as a representative of the teachers.

In this recent RTE interview he asked three times did he want religion though outside of school hours and he didn't proper answer. In 2007 he said...

Mr Carr said the INTO favoured a broad religious education programme for all schools on, perhaps, four days a week, with the various churches coming in on the fifth day to "add their own stamp", in accordance with parental wishes
In a another recent Irish Times article he fudges again

Separate religious teaching during school is just not practical and it comes back the issue that a more secular system suits most parents and is most social and cost efficient.

This post is collation of my and other thoughts and info from discussions on atheist.ie and on Boards.ie PS. It interesting to note that the Church of Ireland as a minority is happy to continue teaching COI primary schools kids religion outside of schools hours at Sunday schools etc.

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