Monday, 15 February 2010

The cultural ethos of schools

There is an ongoing debate in Northern Ireland about the replacement of the five Education and Library Boards with a single Education and Skills Authority and in that context there is a debate about the nature and governance of the controlled or state sector.

As a contribution to that debate I waould draw your attention to an article by Jude Collins in the now-defunct Daily Ireland on 24 November 2005.  Jude Collins is a writer and broadcaster and at that time he was also a lecturer on education at the University of Ulster.

Secretary of State Peter Hain had proposed the reorganisation of the education system, with a single education authority and the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools becoming an advisory body.  Against that background Jude Collins took the opportunity to write about the importance of the Roman Catholic schools sector:
There are two good reasons for protecting Catholic schools here.
Firstly, they provide a Catholic education for children.  That is they try to help the young people in their schools to see that their religious faith, if it is to be more than a social veneer, permeates all aspects of life.  Catholic schools don't always succeed in this mission.  Some think they fail more than they succeed.  but they try.
Secondly, Catholic education supports a sense of Irish identity.  The schools don't talk a lot about this in their official curricuclum, but it's part of what they do.  Children attending Catholic schools are helped to see that 'visiting the capital' doesn't necessarily mean going to London, that Carndonagh, clones and Carrickmacross are Ulster towns every bit as much as Carrickfergus, Cookstown and Killyleagh - that Irish music and Irish games and the Irish language are a wonderful source of fun and fulfilment, as well as a rich heritage to be proud of.  They give children an Irish lens through which to view the world.
So if yoy're a commited Catholic, you'll be watchful that Mr Hain's plans for the CCMS don't signal an assault on Catholic schools.  If you're a commited nationalist, you'll also be equally watchful, for different reasons.
Repeat it to yourself so you stay alert: for political as well as religious reasons, Catholic education in this state matters.  Some things don't change.
Accortding to the writer, Roman Catholic schools have a religious dimension and a cultural dimension and the cultural dimension is unashamedly Irish and Gaelic.  He says that the sector should therefore be supported by Irish cultural nationalism, because it is supportive of, Irish and Gaelic culture.

The Irish-medium sector also promotes Irish and Gaelic culture but what then of the controlled sector and children in the controlled sector?  I intend to look at several reasons why the cultural ethos of the controlled sector is important.

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