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RE teaching is biased against humanist views

Education is rarely off the political agenda. The latest attempt by the UUP to make religious discrimination in the employment of teachers illegal has been scuppered by a petition of concern by Sinn Fein and the SDLP.

Sinn Fein in particular has made equality a major element of its public policies. So, why has it obstructed a proposal designed to increase both equality and diversity within our schools?

To put it bluntly, it is scandalous in the 21st century that publicly funded schools can discriminate in the appointment of teachers by basing it upon their religious denomination.

Nor should they discriminate in the teaching of religion itself. In Northern Ireland we have an RE core syllabus drawn up by the four main Christian Churches that in all Key Stages is heavily Christian, except for Key Stage 3 where two world religions are included. Humanism, or philosophy, or real comparative religion do not feature on the syllabus.

This privileged position for Christianity has been even questioned by many Christians. In December 2015 the report of the Woolf Commission on Religion And Belief In Public Life: Living With Difference was critical of the local RE syllabus, stating that the study of world religions "is only available for Key Stage 3 pupils on the basis of the Church's argument that younger children would be confused".

Non-religious world views such as humanism should be included. This is surely necessary in an increasingly diverse society where, according to a recent BBC/RTE survey, 23% of the people here have no religion - yet they are totally ignored in this restrictive RE syllabus.

BRIAN MCCLINTON

NI Humanist Association

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