Educate Together ‘s report to the CERD Committee highlights fundamental concerns that the Irish State’s policies towards primary education are in conflict with the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination.
Educate Together states that it is impossible to completely eradicate racist attitudes in a society without ensuring that the primary education system practically models attitudes of inclusion and respect for difference and equality.
Educate Together’s report articulates how the current system of primary education is overwhelmingly focused towards specific religious interests and highlights how the Department of Education recognises this imbalance yet does not proactively support an alternative choice based on human rights and equality of access.
Educate Together fully supports choice and the need for the State to ensure that parents may choose specific religious education if they wish, however it is a clear violation of Article 5 (d) (vii) of the Convention to fail to ensure that there is alternative inclusive provision available to the population.
Due to the failure of the State to realistically support the development of multi-denominational/legally inclusive schools, this article is violated in the following ways:
- Access to those holding different faiths is restricted, especially where there is a shortage of spaces in schools, when it can be withheld. This can force parents holding different faiths to travel long distances to access an appropriate school for their children.
- Parents holding different views are compelled to send their children to schools that uphold religious views that contradict their own religion, thought or conscience.
- Children of different faiths often have to stand outside classes, go to a office or even sit at the back of a class when doctrinal instruction take place thus creating potential for social isolation, exclusion and bullying.
- Parents are pressurised to allow a child attend religious classes against their conscience due to concerns for their child’s socialisation.
- Teachers can be required to teach as religious truth views that they do not themselves hold.
- Staff members who do not hold the religious views of the school can be legally discriminated against.
The current imbalance is directly counter-productive to bringing forward future generations who have grown up in an atmosphere of respect, inclusion and equality between peoples of different faiths, ethnicities and cultures. This should be a core objective of our education system as we move into a vibrant world and a Europe that has 25 countries with many different faiths, cultures and ethnicities.