Schools and religious education

Faith formation

Letters to the Editor. Illustration: Paul Scott

Sir, – Paddy Monahan proposes a move to religious education out of school hours (“Religion must move outside school hours as opt-out approach fails children badly”, Opinion & Analysis, April 8th). A timely suggestion. Following the recommendations of a Royal Commission in 1828, a National Board of Education was set up in 1831 with the aim of administering the education of the children of the “labouring classes” of six to 12 years by a system of combined secular instruction along with provision for separate religious instruction by clergymen outside normal school hours. – Yours, etc,

GABRIEL BURNS.

Enniskillen,

Co Fermanagh.

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A chara, – To use an analogy, suggesting that a holistic Catholic education can be replaced by a “faith formation” class outside of school hours makes as much sense as suggesting that those who desire a total immersion education through the Irish language could be just as easily accommodated via a separate “Gaeilge formation” class outside of school hours.

Given this background, the majority of parents who send their children to Catholic schools (myself included) are happy for our children to participate in faith formation in school and to make the sacraments with their classmates. If the majority of parents were opting their children out of faith formation in Catholic schools then the question of religion being taken out of schools would have some merit but that is not the case.

Some 13,000 primary school pupils currently have an exemption from studying Irish. No one has suggested that Irish should not be taught in schools because the children with exemptions might feel “othered”. There can and should be proper accommodations in place for children who opt out of Irish, religion, or indeed any other subject, and schools should be appropriately resourced to ensure this happens – on this I am sure Mr Monahan and I can agree.

The problem is not the faith formation in schools, the problem is a lack of diversity in the types of schools that are on offer. The Government has promised 400 multidenominational primary schools by 2040, it is their responsibility to provide for parents who wish to send their children to non-denominational schools.

The benefits of religious belief and practice extend beyond the personal preferences and beliefs of individuals. According to the Mayo Clinic, “Most studies have shown that religious involvement and spirituality are associated with better health outcomes, including greater longevity, coping skills, and health-related quality of life and less anxiety, depression, and suicide.”

In the challenging world that primary school pupils face, surely providing a faith formation that helps to provide these benefits should be a priority? – Is mise,

CLARE CLIFFORD,

Stepaside,

Co Dublin.