21 Feb 2018

Some Irish students can finally 'opt out' of religion classes 

As the population of Ireland diversifies and religious belief weakens, schools must provide alternative options to religious instruction or worship. However, not all children will enjoy that freedom.

Ciara Kenny
Ciara Kenny The Irish Times, Ireland
Source: The Irish Times
Some Irish students can finally 'opt out' of religion classes  - NewsMavens
Classroom. Wikimedia Commons

Why this story matters:

According to the new curriculum, pupils in secondary schools run by the Irish State will have the choice to opt out of religious classes and study an alternative subject instead.

Parents of tens of thousands of students in 275 community schools run by Education and Training Boards will now have to be consulted about whether or not their child will study religion, with large numbers expected to opt out.

But more than 400 “voluntary” schools -- most of which are owned or controlled by religious bodies -- will not be impacted by the new rules.

Access to non-religious run schools for families who do not want a Catholic education for their children is a big problem in many areas around the country, with increasing numbers competing for a limited number of places. Competition is fierce in some densely populated city areas, and in many rural areas, there’s no alternative for families other than the local Catholic school.

The move has been widely welcomed as long-overdue, but parents who have no option but to send their children to a religious school, for whatever reason, are impatient for a similar choice. No child should have to participate in religious instruction or worship against their own or their parents’ wishes.

education, religion, family

Details from the story:

  • Currently, students who do not want to participate in religious education are usually forced to sit at the back of the class or in the library.
  • A new Department of Education circular will oblige schools to consult with parents -- or pupils over the age of 18 -- over the option of studying alternative subjects.
  • No additional resources will be provided.
  • Principals have complained that the lack of extra teachers will put schools under pressure, and the Teachers’ Union of Ireland said it had “serious concerns”.

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