Junior Cert religious education: Students asked to explore meaning of life

Topics range from atheism to fundamentalism

Students were asked to explore searching questions such as the meaning of life in a wide-ranging exam in the Junior Cert higher level religious studies paper.

While candidates – mercifully – weren’t tasked with finding the answer, they were asked to compare the approaches taken by agnostics and secular humanists to questions about the meaning of life.

Stephen O'Hara, a religion teacher in Coláiste Choilm, Ballincollig, Co Cork, said this was an example of the kind of testing question that challenged even the best-prepared students.

“Overall, this was a very balanced paper but it really required higher-order thinking skills,” said Mr O’Hara, who is a TUI subject representative.

“In the past, the papers might not have always challenged the A-candidate, but this one certainly did.”

The paper itself did not stray too far from previous year’s paper, he said, so students should not have felt too surprised by structure or content.

Value of religious belief

An essay question in section five, which asked young people value of religious belief for young people in Ireland today, was very relevant for students, he said.

“This was a nice question – it was a nice way of grounding religion in young people’s lives.

“Often, they’re asked about religion in way that doesn’t always feel relevant to their lives,” Mr O’Hara said.

The ordinary-level paper he said was also broad-ranging, though some questions would not have been out of place in a higher paper, he aid.

“Some would have posed a significant challenge for the ordinary-level candidate, who would have needed a good breadth of knowledge to score well,” he said.

“Some of the language and terminology was difficult; it wasn’t completely out of their reach, but it would have challenged.”

Try this at home: Leaving Cert religious education

Q. State three characteristics of a community and explain why each characteristic is an important feature of any community.

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien is Education Editor of The Irish Times. He was previously chief reporter and social affairs correspondent