Dáil Éireann - Volume 653 - 08 May, 2008

Written Answers. - School Curriculum.

Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Education and Science when he last reviewed or revised the syllabus for the teaching of religion in primary and secondary schools; the plans to review or revise the syllabus in view of the changing composition of the school going population as a result of social and demographic change; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17920/08]

  Deputy Batt O’Keeffe: Education legislation requires that the diversity of educational provision in the State is taken account of, and the right of parents to send their children to a school of their choice is respected under Section 30 of the Education Act 1998, no student can be required to attend instruction in any subject which is contrary to the onscience of the parent of the student. The Rules for National Schools also provide, where the parents or guardians so wish, for the withdrawal of pupils from religious instruction.

Section 15 of the Education Act 1998 requires boards of management of schools to uphold and be accountable to the Patron for upholding the characteristic spirit of the school including the moral, religious, social, educational and spiritual values which inform the ethos of the school.

At primary level, the Department of Education and Science recognises the rights of the different church authorities to design curricula in religious education and to supervise their teaching and implementation. This right is enshrined in the Education Act 1998. Consequently, although religious education is part of the Curriculum for Primary Schools and schools are obliged to allocate 30 minutes per day for religious instruction, the content of the religion programme is determined by the Patron of the school.

The Revised Curriculum for Primary Schools espouses the importance of tolerance towards the practice, culture and life-style of a range of religious convictions and states explicitly that the beliefs and sensibilities of every child are to be respected.

In second level schools, a programme of religious instruction approved by the Patron may be offered, or alternatively, the school may use the curriculum in Religious Education which has been designed as an examinable subject by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment. The NCCA syllabuses are concerned with understanding religion as a phenomenon in the world and are designed to be studied by students of all religious faiths and of none. At Junior Cycle, the NCCA syllabus in Religious Education was introduced in September 2000 for first examination in the Junior Certificate in 2003. At Senior Cycle, a new NCCA syllabus in Religious Education at Higher and Ordinary levels was introduced for first examination in 2005

As the Deputy is aware, a new model of primary school patronage is to be piloted from September 2008 in response to changing societal circumstances. The pilot schools, which will come under the patronage of County Dublin VEC, will aim to provide religious education as part of the school day for diverse denominational groups, reflecting parental choice and based [1253] on an ethos of inclusion and respect for children of all faiths and none. The content and approach to religious education in the pilot schools will be developed in partnership with the relevant interests, and evaluated over the course of the pilot phase.