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The Department of Education and Skills Syllabi for Religious Education: Implications for Faith Development in Second Level Schools

The Department of Education and Skills Syllabi for Religious Education: Implications for Faith Development in Second Level Schools

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An essay for the 2012 Undergraduate Awards Competition by Clare Rockett. Originally submitted for Bachelor of Religious Education with History at Mater Dei Institute of Education, with lecturer Sandra Cullen in the category of Teacher Education
An essay for the 2012 Undergraduate Awards Competition by Clare Rockett. Originally submitted for Bachelor of Religious Education with History at Mater Dei Institute of Education, with lecturer Sandra Cullen in the category of Teacher Education

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Published by: Undergraduate Awards on Aug 30, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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10/27/2013

 
Abstract
This excerpt from a research proposal examines the implications for faith development in
second level Catholic schools arising from the State‟s involvement in religious education
since 2000. The introduction of the State approved syllabi created many debates and raisednumerous questions. However, the core issue is whether or not it is possible to develop faithwithin the State approved syllabi. This paper argues that an academic study of religiouseducation can certainly assist students to grow and develop in their faith. A good teacher triesto help students achieve critical awareness which is not just a matter of doubting for
doubting‟s sake but is an awareness that truth is the most important thing in life. By fostering
the development of the critical thinker faith development can occur in the classroom asstudents question, doubt and critically reflect on their faith in order to affirm their faith. TheState syllabi can play an important role in developing an informed faith by giving studentsthe tools, language and opportunities to express and articulate their faith.
It is important to clarify what is referred to with the use of the word „faith‟. Theologian H.Richard Niebuhr recognised, “To deny the reality of a supernatural being called God is one
thing; to live without confidence in some centre of value without loyalty to a cause is
another.”
1
 
Faith does not just refer to religious faith. As Lane suggests „Faith is by no means
an exclusively religious category; it can also be found among non-religious
 people.‟
2
Recentstudies show that faith is an element that belongs intrinsically and universally to the humancondition.
3
Faith can be recognised as the activity of seeking and discovering meaning in themost comprehensive dimensions of our experience.
4
It is no longer the case in the secondaryschool that every pupil in the classroom professes a religious faith. However, that is not to
say that pupils today are „faith
-
less‟. Faith is universal, embedded in all, a constitutive
element of being human. To te
ll a family member, „I love you‟ illustrates faith. It may not be
religious faith but every person and thus pupil has a faith. Faith development, as
Share theGood News
 
suggests, „is a term that suggests energy, dynamism and lifelong commitment in
helping
 people to come to know and live more fully in their Christian faith.‟
5
 
1
S. Daloz Parks,
 Big Questions Worthy Dreams
, (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass 2000) p.21
2
D. Lane,
The Experience of God 
, (Dublin: Veritas 2003) p.74 & p.75
3
D. Lane,
The Experience of God 
, p.75
4
S. Daloz Parks,
 Big Questions Worthy Dreams
, p.7
5
Irish Episcopal Conference,
Share the Good News,
(Dublin: Veritas 2010) par.43
 
This paper will examine the history of the State‟s involvement in religious education. It will
focus on the changes that have taken place since 2000 with the introduction of the Stateapproved syllabi and the impact that these changes have had on faith development in theclassroom, examining the tension between faith development and an academic study of religious education.
 
Submission
Cardinal Newman once said “To live is to change, and to live well is to change often.”
6
 Religious Education has undergone an enormous change in the past thirteen years in the Irish
education system. The catalyst of this transformation has been the State‟s
involvement inReligious Education, explicitly illustrated in the Education Act of 1998. As Vince Murray
suggests „The biggest innovation within post
-primary Religious Education in Ireland in thepast decade has been its introduction as a State examination subject at Junior and Leaving
Certificate level.‟
7
However, questions still remain concerning the benefits and success of thischange.
When examining the impact and implications of the State‟s involvement in ReligiousEducation, with reference to Newman‟s quote, one has to ask “is the life of ReligiousEducation well served under the new system of State approved syllabi?” In order to answer 
this question it is necessary to define not just the purpose of Religious Education but also the
terms „Religious Education‟ and „Catechesis‟, for much of the debate has centred on the faith
formation aspect of Religious Education and whether this is appropriately and satisfactorilyserved under the State certified syllabi. However, Crawford and Rossiter suggest
that „a
 sound academic Religious Education has an intellectual focus but this is in no way contraryto the aim of developing faith.
8
 
Thus the question must be asked „Can catechesis becombined with an academic study of religious education?‟ In much contemporary
publicdebate about the relationship between religion and education the focus has been on conflict,and, in the case of debates in the UK and Australia, on religious involvement in, orconnection with education, as being counter to the public good.
9
It is a challenge to makepositive the relationship between religion and education, between Religious Education and
the State‟s involvement in this area. However, Anne Looney suggests that „Religious
Education has become too important to leave to the Chur
ches.‟
10
If this is the case then the
State‟s contribution to Religious Education in the form of the syllabi can be viewed as both
6
 
A. Holton, „Religious Education: An Examination Subject‟
The Furrow
51, (May, 2000) p.287
7
 
V. Murray, „The Junior and leaving Certificate Syllabi: Background, Issues and Challenges‟
Exploring
 
 Religious Education
ed. P. Kieran & A. Hession (Dublin: Veritas 2006) p.97
8
M. Crawford & G. Rossiter,
 Missionaries to a Teenage Culture
, (Sydney: Christian Brothers ProvinceResource Group 1988) p.82
9
 
A. Looney, „Religious Education in the Public Space: Challenges and Contestations‟ p.952 & p
953
10
 
A. Looney, „Religious Education in the Public Space: Challenges and Contestations‟
p.965

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