By Susan Gately - 30 December, 2016
Religious education is transmitting a holistic world view with very sound values that underpin a lot of the stuff that is valuable in our society, according to Seamus Mulconry, general secretary of the Catholic Primary Schools Management Association (CPSMA).
Mr Mulconry was responding to a proposal to take religion out of the core primary school curriculum. The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) has proposed that the ‘core’ curriculum should be a minimum of 60 per cent of each school day, dealing with maths, English and Irish. The other 40 per cent of the day, designated ‘flexible time’, would be for roll call, assembly, breaks, and discretionary curriculum time, including the school patron’s religious programme.
Agreeing that there was a problem of curriculum overload in primary schools, Mr Mulconry said that abolishing religion was not the answer and consultations on the issue should not be “obsessed” with religious education.
“We don’t think any consultation should be obsessed with religion,” he told the Irish Times. “We think there should be an objective appraisal of what the issues are and not simply a focus on one thing.”
From some of the commentary, said Mr Mulconry, it seemed that if you took religion from the curriculum you could basically turn out quantum mechanics experts in the next week. “We need to be realistic about what is going on here.” Religion was not indoctrination, but taught children about ethics and current social issues like homelessness and refugees, he said. “When there are discussions about ‘no room at the inn’ you can be fairly sure that people are learning about the real issues of homelessness.”
“Religious education is transmitting a holistic world view with very sound values that underpin a lot of the stuff that is valuable in our society. When people are thinking of cutting it down or dumping it they need to do some very, very serious thinking.”
According to the director of the Iona Institute think tank, the NCCA proposals show some hostility to denominational schools and appear to row back on a former agreement with the Department of Education and denominational schools made in the mid 1990s, which said that religious education would remain part of the core curriculum.
“It’s hard to read it any other way,” David Quinn told the Irish Times, “… if you combine it with the push for ERB and Ethics [a religious education syllabus which doesn’t focus on any one faith], for which there was no evidence of any real public demand, and now they want to see religious education dropped as a core part of the curriculum.”
Mr Quinn said that “It defeats the purpose really of having a faith-based school if they can’t have religious education as part of the core curriculum.”
The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment consultations will run through the spring of 2017.