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Archbishop affirms “vital place” of Catholic education

By Sarah Mac Donald - 21 June, 2014

New DCU Institute of Education brings together St Patrick’s Drumcondra, Mater Dei and CofI College of Education.

DCU EDUCAT VIS FOR CHILDREN resizedA report outlining the vision and structure of a new Institute of Education at DCU – which will provide formation for teachers in the Catholic, Church of Ireland and other Christian tradition – was launched by the Minister for Education, Ruairí Quinn, on Friday.

The new Institute of Education will be created by the coming together of Dublin City University, St Patrick’s College Drumcondra, Mater Dei Institute of Education and Church of Ireland College of Education.

It will represent the largest critical mass of education expertise on the island of Ireland and for the first time in Ireland, it will create a space enabling different Christian traditions to teach and learn collaboratively side-by-side.

The Institute plans to provide initial teacher education and continuous professional development for teachers and educators from early childhood through primary and secondary to third and fourth level.

In a statement, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin said the new Institute reflected something of how the future of education in Ireland is progressing and how people wish it to progress.

“We live in a pluralist society and our education must prepare people to live in and flourish within a pluralist society.”

He said Ireland had to strive to offer the best educational system to its children and to strive to offer its teachers and future teachers the best in training and formation.

“I am delighted to see the new range of opportunities for teacher training and on-going formation that the new Institute will open out at all levels.”

Describing the Institute as reflecting a modern understanding of pluralism, the Archbishop said, “Pluralism should not produce negative rivalry or antagonism or give rise to elitism or social division, or a culture which seeks to maintain positions based on narrow ideologies.”

“We need to build up positive relationships within the entire educational community in such a way that our children learn to respect each other and to understand what it means to live one’s values with conviction within a respectful pluralist framework, in a modernity of mutual and respectful understanding.”

He added, “Catholic education has a vital place in today’s Irish educational system, as something which brings a unique value system, a value system which is recognised also by families of a variety of religious traditions who opt to send their children to a Catholic school.”

“Catholic education will continue to play that role in the future, working however alongside other schools which embrace a different ethos and contribute, in their way, to the rightful pluralism of educational provision in today’s Ireland.”

“If religious education is one of the fundamental pillars of the Irish education system, then there is a public interest in seeing that those involved in religious education and in denominational education in public schools are adequately trained for their task.”

“The new Institute will offer great opportunities to ensure that training for those working in denominational education takes place within an atmosphere of excellence and that those involved in religious education will in their own way be able to enrich that excellence.”

“The response to the challenge of pluralism will have to be measured, however, not just in terms of pluralism in patronage, but in an outcome in which every school, independent of its patronage, becomes a place of welcome for the deprived, the marginalized and those with educational challenges.”

Speaking at the launch of the report, ‘A New Vision of Education for all the Children of Ireland’, Minister Quinn said he wanted “to commend the institutions involved for showing leadership in creating this flagship institute of education.”

“I am particularly pleased to see the commitment to interdenominational diversity, the Church of Ireland, Roman Catholic, non-denominational and multi-denominational traditions all side by side and working together; it is a wonderful symbol of a mature, modern Ireland,” he said.

The Minister continued, “I am delighted that significant progress is being made across all the publicly funded teacher training colleges as they move from being 19 separate institutions into six centres of excellence.”

“These structural changes are complementing the curricular reforms I have already introduced in order to position Ireland at the forefront of teacher education and ensure we continue to have excellent teachers.”

The Institute will constitute a fifth faculty of DCU.

It will conduct pioneering research in priority areas such as Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education, special-needs and inclusive education, literacy and numeracy, arts education, further education, assessment, digital learning, as well as ethical and values-based education.

It will engage extensively with schools throughout Ireland and represent an authoritative source of expertise for educational policy development.

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin and the Church of Ireland Archbishop of Dublin and Glendalough, Archbishop Michael Jackson, jointly welcomed the new development.

“We are happy to see that the traditions to which we both belong and the heritage of our institutions, will find such a welcome in Dublin City University,” they said.

“We have great pleasure in welcoming the new Institute of Education within Dublin City University. It is a truly significant development in Irish education. It represents an exciting vision for the education of children in Ireland in the decades to come.”

“The Institute will provide multiple opportunities for collaborative engagement in the formation of the teachers of tomorrow. This will be in an environment and setting which is pluralist and respectful of the academic enterprise as a whole.”

“It also honours the formative contribution which understanding one’s own tradition within Christianity brings to education together with understanding the faith tradition of others who are different from us.”

Dr Martin McAleese, Chancellor of DCU, said he was “particularly pleased with this historical development. The significance for the island of Ireland is immense. Here we have institutionalised diversity and respects for all faiths and none embedded in an Institute of Education that will have a transformative impact on the futures of all the children of Ireland.”

The core curriculum for teacher preparation will be denominationally neutral but will allow for the delivery of denominational modules to prepare teachers appropriately for schools of different religious traditions and none.

The distinctive ethos and identity of each of the incorporating institutions will be respected and upheld within the ‘new DCU’.

This will be achieved through the creation of Centres for Denominational Education within the Institute (a Centre for Catholic Education and a Church of Ireland Centre).

The Directors of the two Centres will be members of the Institute of Education Management Committee, ensuring that each Centre will be fully part of the structure, staffing and governance of the university, he explained.

Each Centre will receive guidance from its respective Advisory Council on upholding denominational ethos, values and traditions as well as curricular content relating to specialist areas of programmes.

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