Schools and religious faith

 

Sir, – Tom Finn (January 8th) argues that it would be more “egalitarian” for children to be educated according to their religious beliefs outside of a State-funded system. This would be in conflict with Article 42 of the Constitution which states that “the State acknowledges that the primary and natural educator of the child is the Family, and guarantees to respect the inalienable right and duty of parents to provide, according to their means, for the religious and moral, intellectual, physical and social education of their children” and that “Parents shall be free to provide this education in their homes or in schools recognised or established by the State”. Our outstanding system of voluntary education is guaranteed by this article, and I would suggest is outstanding because of it.

In contrast to his preference for a secular, top-down system of education analogous to the French model based on the principle of laïcité, our voluntary system is the legacy of schools established predominantly by local parishes which reflected parents’ desires to have their children educated according to their beliefs.

This voluntary system has, I suggest, heretofore given parishes and communities, parents and students, a sense of involvement in and ownership of their schools unlike a homogenous state-imposed system.

This has led to the development of an educational partnership between parents which contributes to improved educational attainment.

I do, however, accept that the use of the so-called “baptism barrier” by Catholic schools to deny students of alternative beliefs access to an education in their local community is objectionable.

Perhaps oversubscribed Catholic schools could voluntarily adopt a quota system in their admissions policies for non-Catholic students in their catchment area.

This would allow oversubscribed schools to continue to protect their ethos while at the same time reflecting the diversity of their communities (as the vast majority of Catholic schools already do). – Yours, etc,

DIARMUID BOLGER,

Clonmel,

Co Tipperary.