Religious education and religious instruction in the Irish post-primary school curriculum in the aftermath of the introduction of an examinable, non-denominational syllabus for religious education

Deenihan, Thomas J.

August 2001

Thesis or dissertation

© 2001 Thomas J Deenihan. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

In September 2000 a new subject, religious education, was introduced to the Irish post-primary curriculum. This subject is examinable and non-denominational. The subject was introduced to sixty-seven schools in the first phase of its introduction. The Catechetics commission of the Irish Episcopal Conference subsequently issued ‘Guidelines’ for combining religious instruction with religious education in schools where religious instruction enjoys a legally enforceable allocation of classes on the timetable. Of the sixty-seven schools who introduced religious education in 2000, these number sixty-three.

This thesis examines current practice in the teaching of ‘religion’. In doing so, it distinguishes between the content and aims of religious education and religious instruction. The new Department of Education and Science syllabus is examined as are the various Church documents on the nature of Catholic education, Catholic schools and a Church approved catechetics programme. Of crucial concern to this thesis are the agreements and legal safeguards afforded to religious instruction in the Irish post-primary curriculum.

This analysis leads the writer to the conclusion that the proposal to combine religious education with religious instruction was far from ideal. This assertion is verified by a survey of the sixty-three schools in the first phase of introduction that are also obliged to teach denominational religious instruction. This survey examined the critical areas of qualification, time allocation, status and, significantly, the steps taken to teach religious instruction in conjunction with religious education. Throughout, but particularly in chapter four, areas of
difficulty in relation to the proposed merger of religious education and religious instruction are highlighted. These difficulties relate particularly to employment law and the awarding and recognition of qualification.

Institute for Learning, The University of Hull
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