Schools and opting out of religion
Sir, – Further to “Schools refusing tuition for students who opt out of religion” (News, August 1st), the refusal of our State secondary schools to implement a Department of Education directive requiring them to provide students who opt out of religious instruction with access to another subject represents a disturbing breach of the human rights of non-religious and minority faith learners and their families.
Our education system is an outlier in Europe in this respect, and the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has repeatedly criticised Ireland on this human rights issue.
The situation is worse at primary level, where most learners cannot realistically escape what amounts to day-long religious faith formation in our State-funded education system.
It is dispiriting that, in response to pressure from church leaders, our Government scrapped the new Education About Religions and Beliefs and Ethics (ERBE) curriculum created by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment some years back.
Our Government must now do the right thing and require all State-funded schools to teach an impartial ERBE curriculum devised by the State – in the same way that schools are required to teach the rest of the State curriculum.
Similarly, the rights of learners to a modern, evidence-based relationships and sexuality education curriculum that meets their needs, rather than one informed by religious dogma, needs urgently to be addressed.
It is shameful that we continue to alienate children and families in our State education system and make them feel different. Change is long overdue. – Yours, etc,