Religion and education


Sir, – The circular on “religious instruction and worship in certain second-level schools” issued by the Minister of Education and Skills last week is baffling both in tone and content. Religious instruction is not a subject on the second-level school curriculum.

Religious instruction is a term associated with the attitude of the main churches in earlier times, when instruction in accordance with the rites, practice and teaching of a particular religion or denomination was paramount. To use it to describe the work of religious education in second-level schools today is pejorative.

It should never be the case that the rights of parents who wish their children to opt out of religious education are compromised. Religious education is a subject sanctioned by the Department of Education and Skills. It seeks to contribute to the holistic development of all students. It is open to all pupils regardless of their commitment to any particular religion or worldview. It highlights the importance of understanding and appreciating the richness of the major religious traditions, and of engagement with the secular response to human experience.

The language and tone of the Minister’s circular is not only misleading; it undermines the reality of religious education in schools under all types of patronage. By blithely conflating religious instruction with the excellent work of religious education teachers, the Minster seriously misrepresents these teachers and their schools, and could isolate children from the many benefits of engaging with religious education. – Yours, etc,


Assistant Professor

Religious Education,

School of Human


Institute of Education,

Dublin City University,

Dublin 9.