Study finds 'little support' for purely Catholic religious instruction among trainee primary teachers

Around 90% of trainee primary teachers say they are Roman Catholics, compared to just 78% of the general population.

The study by NUI Galway found that although Catholics are over-represented in the profession, they were in favour of teaching children about all faiths.

The study by NUI Galway surveyed applicants and trainees to primary teaching courses across the country.

It found that while 90% are Catholic, one third say they rarely or never attend Mass or practice religion.

Just over half considered themselves religious, a quarter said they weren’t religious, while 1.4% said they were convinced atheists.

Researchers say that the prospect of entering a course and profession dominated by one religion may deter people from choosing a career in teaching. 

However, they did note that despite the high number of Catholics, there was very little support for purely Catholic religious instruction, with all respondents in favour of teaching children about all faiths.

Researchers say that it indicates that teachers are complying with teaching religion rather than expressly endorsing or rejecting it.

    Some core findings from the study:

  • Roman Catholics are significantly over-represented while those stating that they have no religion are under-represented in primary Initial Teacher Education groups compared to the overall population. 90% of respondents who entered primary teacher education programmes across Ireland identified as Roman Catholic compared to 78% of the general population in the last Census;
  • One third (32-35%) of Initial Teacher Education applicants rarely or never attend religious services and/or practice their religion;
  • 58% of the study’s respondents considered themselves ‘a religious person’, 24.5% ‘not a religious person’, 1.4% ‘a convinced atheist’ and 15.9% indicated that they ‘didn’t know’;
  • Catholic religious instruction received little support, even from Catholic ITE applicants, with those from other or no religious backgrounds generally expressing moderate levels of disagreement. In contrast, all respondents (from Catholic, other religious, and non-religious backgrounds) were strongly in favour of teaching children about all faiths, world views and religions;
  • Analysis of the data indicated a widespread tendency of complying with rather than endorsing or rejecting the teaching of religion among ITE applicants.

- Digital Desk


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