Humanist group aids lesson plans for primary schools

Children from rising numbers of non-religious families should have their upbringing better reflected in primary schools that use new teaching resources, says multi-denominational body Educate Together.

Humanist group aids lesson plans for primary schools

It has worked with the Humanist Association of Ireland (HAI) on a series of lesson plans to teach pupils about non-religious systems.

The latest release of Census 2016 data last month showed that the numbers identifying themselves as non-religious grew by almost 75% to 468,400 since 2011, representing around one in 10 of the entire population.

Plans for a new standalone primary course in education about religions, beliefs and ethics — aimed at providing classes about a range of faiths — have been effectively scrapped because religious patrons are legally entitled to control what is taught in their schools. The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment NCCA has suggested the principles which were proposed to be taught in the programme could be woven into other aspects of the primary curriculum.

The new humanist lesson plans were piloted at eight Educate Together schools, and are aimed at first to fourth-class groups. Educate Together chief executive Paul Rowe said there is no shortage of teaching resources about religious belief systems such as Hinduism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Sikhism and Judaism, but there was very little up to now, and certainly nothing Irish-produced in terms of teaching resources about humanism, atheism or agnosticism.

“These lessons will go a long way towards addressing this,” he said.

“They will help affirm the identity of schoolchildren from families reflecting these philosophical outlooks.”

HAI spokesperson Philip Byers said both organisations believe it is particularly important to ensure knowledge and understanding of different beliefs, particularly in an education system where religious beliefs have long held a privileged position.

“These lesson plans address humanism in a matter-of-fact way and were developed in order to enhance children’s confidence in engaging with differing world views and religious beliefs,” he said.

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