Another student guest post, this one from the student covering Ireland this semester (you can read other posts from this student here, here, and here). This is an opinion piece, so standard “the views expressed by this author…” disclaimer at work here.
There’s no doubt that Ireland’s history has been plagued with religious conflict, mainly between the Protestants and Irish Catholics. But after the country declared its independence from Great Britain in 1922, these religious issues have, for the most part, have calmed in the Republic. So with such a tumultuous past, you would think the Irish government would avoid being blatantly biased towards one religion, right? Well, the Irish Department of Education seems to think otherwise.
According to a recent RTE article, Ireland has ventured on to a new type of primary school system called the Community National School (CNS). The goal of these schools is to bring together students of all religious backgrounds and educate them about them on multiple faiths, but of course ladies and gentleman, there’s a catch. These schools will be giving preferential treatment to Catholic students, separating them from the other students in order to study and practice Catholicism during school hours with well-trained instructors. This is especially outrageous in that about 80% of students in the CNS system are not from an Irish Catholic descent, with a majority of the students being Muslim or children or immigrants.
This is not a result of the recent upsurge of hostility towards immigrants and general air of racism that has appeared throughout Europe, but a deal that the Department of Education has made with the Catholic Church in that they agreed to implement a rigorous Catholic education. Hundreds of documents outline and justify the purpose of segregating children along religious lines.
This is an important issue because children of non-Catholic descent will quickly realize that they are not being given equal treatment in a system that is to promote the education on several religions. Education is an important topic for all religious groups and could eventually grow into a larger issue for the state as they begin to build more of these schools and more individuals are affected by this obvious favoritism towards the Catholic Church. Racist tendencies may become widespread creating rifts in society that will be increasingly more difficult to handle than if it were to be resolved now in its preliminary stages. If these racist tendencies become popular enough, they may even be used and manipulated by politicians to win votes for their next election, creating the opportunity for conflict in the state.
An obvious solution would be to not have any religious education in the school system, but the Minister of Education, Mary Hanafin, has already stated that that is a non-negotiable topic. So I propose that instead of giving Catholic children their lesson during school hours, that they instead have an after-school program designed for the same purpose. This way, there is no actual act of separating and highlighting differences between the school children and the Catholic children are still receiving a quality religious education and are fulfilling their deal with the Catholic Church. This gives other religions in the school to have the opportunity to organize their own after-school program and also gives parents more control over their children’s education.
Ireland’s Department of Education must be careful in their treatment of religious groups, or they could cause serious hostilities in the country. This is the last issue that the country really needs to deal with at the moment, especially with the current Euro crisis. There is no productive reason to create racism in any country…ever.
Barkin, N. (2010, September 14). Analysis – Anti-immigrant wave spreads across Europe. Reuters. Retrieved April 9, 2012, from http://uk.reuters.com/article/2010/09/14/uk-europe-immigrants-analysis-idUKTRE68D1Z520100914
Ireland country profile. (2012, March 22). BBC News . Retrieved April 9, 2012, from http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/country_profiles/1038581.stm#facts
O’Kelly, E. (2012, April 2). State Gave Commitments to Catholic Church on Education. RTÃ‰. Retrieved April 9, 2012, from http://www.rte.ie/news/2012/0328/educationfoi.html