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New book records voices of young people on religion and education

By Ann Marie Foley - 12 December, 2019

A new book has reported that reducing the commitment to religious education within second-level schools would render young people less well equipped to live with religious diversity and consequently lead to an undermining of social cohesion.

The book Religion and Education: The Voices of Young People in Ireland, which explores attitudes of teenagers on the island of Ireland to religion and diversity, was launched at DCU’s St Patrick’s Campus on Monday 9 December.

Published by Veritas Publications, it was edited by Dr Gareth Byrne, Director of the Mater Dei Centre for Catholic Education, Dublin City University, and Prof Leslie J Francis, Warwick Religions and Education Research Centre, University of Warwick.

“Young people, parents, schools and faith communities will find this book an invaluable resource in reflecting on how the interaction between religion and education can contribute to the fullest development of young people in Ireland today, both spiritually and morally,” said Dr Gareth Byrne.

“Up until now, there has been very limited research in Ireland into what young people are saying about their experience of and interest in religion and religious education. The opportunity to hear the voices of young people with regards to religious education, though a series of surveys, conducted across time, different religions and the Irish border has left us with much to reflect upon,” he added.

In the book the authors provide a comparative analysis of what young people in Ireland have to say about religion over a period of 50 years. Their most recent material comes from the Religious Diversity and Young People survey administered among 3000 young students aged from 13 to 15 between 2013 and 2015.

The book stated there is no significant difference between young men and women when it comes to religious belief. While other studies have shown that young women have higher levels of religious practice and belief, no significant difference was recorded in this book. Rather, research in the book found that while young women are more likely to engage in prayer than young men, the women feel less positively about the Church and are more likely to feel alienated from institutional Catholicism.

Religiously unaffiliated young men (16- to 19-year-olds) in the Republic of Ireland retain some vestiges of the religious heritage of Ireland, while those attending weekly Mass also embrace a number of secular norms according to the publication. It includes research on denominational differences in religious and moral values between students attending Catholic and Protestant schools and intersectionality in gender and nationality for those growing up Catholic in Ireland.

Dr G Byrne and and Prof Leslie J Francis

Veritas stated that Gareth Byrne is published widely in the field of religious education. Among his titles with Veritas are Faith Working through Love, In the Tender Embrace of God’s Mercy and Love One Another as I Have Loved You.

The publisher stated that throughout his academic career Leslie J Francis has published leading and extensive research in the intersections between education, psychology and theology.

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