START A PETITION 25,136,189 members: the world's largest community for good
768,601 people care about Education

Irish Schools Will Now Acknowledge Some People Don’t Believe in God

Irish Schools Will Now Acknowledge Some People Don’t Believe in God

When Ireland’s school system was set up in the 1800s, it was designed to be multi-denominational. In reality, it ended up being run entirely by one church – the Catholic Church. Over time, smaller denominations created their own schools. Since the 1970s, an independent NGO called Educate Together has created a number of multi-denominational schools.  These changes were slight as the Catholic Church still controls 93 percent of the nearly 3,200 Irish primary schools.

All of them are funded by taxpayers.

In March 2011, the Irish Minister of Education convened a Forum on Patronage and Pluralism in the Primary Sector to assess the needs and desires of all interested parties regarding the nation’s primary education. The public meetings and written submissions covered a variety of topics, including opening up new schools, the types of curriculum, and what languages should be included.  Minister Ruairi Quinn has long wanted to make drastic changes to the Irish educational system, the more radical of which was to wrestle control of the country’s primary education from the Catholic Church.

Minister Quinn’s grand plan has yet to be fully realized, but a major change to the primary curriculum will occur in September 2014. Beginning at age 4, children will receive instruction in atheism, agnosticism, and humanism as part of their ethics and belief systems alongside studies of other religions. The courses will be offered as part of the curriculum in the non-denominational schools and be available online and via apps for those who attend other schools.

Educate Together and Atheist Ireland will develop the curriculum, which will be designed to give children an alternate view of the world and an alternative to what Atheist Ireland describes as a “faith formation first” approach to the teaching of religions.

Instead of religious instruction, as taught in the Catholic run schools, the approximately 16,000 students who attend the Educate Together schools have a section called Learn Together which promotes a “philosophy of education in which no child is considered an outsider; which promotes the fullest development of ability irrespective of gender, class or stereotype and which encapsulates this ethos in a democratic partnership uniquely combining the involvement of parents with the professional role of teachers.”

During this section, attention is given to the various traditions the children’s families have, which include religious identifications. There is currently no segment which discusses atheism or its celebrations. This new program will be designed to fill that gap.

The program will be in line with the Toledo Guiding Principles on teaching about religions and beliefs. These principles are based on human rights and the belief that everyone has a right to an education in which information is conveyed in an “objective, critical, and pluralistic manner.” This means, in the case of teaching religion, it strives for awareness and understanding of the differing beliefs, but does not focus on indoctrination, devotion or otherwise promote – or denigrate – a particular tradition.

This is why the segment will not promote, but teach about, atheism as yet another way people make sense of their world.

The Patronage Forum Report was issued in April of this year. The results of the survey showed that parents overwhelmingly wanted more school choices and a more diverse educational experience for their children. They are currently seeking submissions for implementing the recommendations of the Advisory Group.

In the survey, participants were asked what their preferences were in school curriculum.  By an overwhelming majority, the first preference was one that was multi-denominational, like the one offered by Education Together.

Now, with the introduction of the atheism segment, multi-denominational will include those without a deity as well.

Read more: , , ,

have you shared this story yet?

some of the best people we know are doing it


+ add your own
4:36AM PDT on Apr 2, 2014


1:14PM PDT on Mar 23, 2014

NEW AGE psycho babble, i noticed that not one christian or Methodist or Lutheran or Baptist was included in this, just goes to make you wonder who they are pushing as their religion

3:33AM PDT on Mar 23, 2014

Perhaps they should include anarchy when discussing political systems while they are at it?

10:51PM PST on Dec 1, 2013


12:54AM PDT on Oct 18, 2013

Holy Catholic Ireland is truly a relic of the past, and really has been for at least a quarter century. It takes time for the law to catch up with the people, though. The scandal has made it possible for government officials to finally do what the younger generation has been wanting for a long time. I remember an Ireland where divorce and birth control were illegal. People went to NI or Britain for contraceptives, as they do now for abortions. That's the next, and last, great battle, and it's coming soon.

For those of you speculating that this will be helpful re The Troubles, they are not about religion, and haven't been for a very long time. They are about power, money and civil rights, though laws in the Republic barring divorce, birth control, abortion, and making public education a subsidiary of the Catholic Church made the thought of reunification unattractive to middle class Protestants who have nothing to do with the fighting, so in that sense, the changes to the legal and institutional structures governing Ireland can help in the long run.

7:15PM PDT on Oct 12, 2013


6:34PM PDT on Oct 11, 2013

In my nursing experiences I have had many "supernatural" events. People would call in the night and say "My husband was just here, what happened" and I would find them dead...that kind of thing. That does NOT mean I believe in religion or an afterlife but perhaps that there is some form of energy that one can project after or during death. As science says, energy is neither created nor destroyed. I don't know and won't until I die, if then. Why worry, be happy! I certainly don't attribute such things to a bearded dude in the sky. There are just too many ridiculous concepts in religion to believe it and too many avaricious and evil leaders in in religion to deny that it is about power and control.

6:26PM PDT on Oct 11, 2013

I'll probably get flagged by someone for this but there is a saying I find true:

Having a religion is like having a penis. It's nice if you have one but waving it around in public is extremely rude and shoving it down a child's throat is child abuse.

6:24PM PDT on Oct 11, 2013

Very much to the point EMER.
I had friends who emigrated to Canada to get their children away from "the troubles". At school they were asked to do a project about their religion and the kids had to go home and ask what it was. They felt that a GREAT success.
Children should never be indoctrinated before they can comprehend belief systems and decide for themselves.

2:27AM PDT on Oct 11, 2013


add your comment

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

Care2 - Be Extraordinary - Start a Care2 Petition
ads keep care2 free

Recent Comments from Causes

Interesting, and thanks for the article.

A little over two thousand signatures needed to get this petition delivered to Amazon. I won't/don't…

Thanks Alicia for reminding us of the cruelty suffered by chickens in places like Chik-Fil-A, Kentucky…

meet our writers

Steve Williams Steve Williams is a passionate supporter of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans (LGBT) rights, human... more
ads keep care2 free

more from causes

Animal Welfare

Causes Canada

Causes UK


Civil Rights


Endangered Wildlife

Environment & Wildlife

Global Development

Global Warming

Health Policy

Human Rights

LGBT rights


Real Food

Trailblazers For Good

Women's Rights

Select names from your address book   |   Help

We hate spam. We do not sell or share the email addresses you provide.