The 2016 Irish Census revealed that one in 10 Irish people now identify as non-religious
Primary schools around the country are being encouraged to include lessons on Humanism in the classroom – after the first-ever lesson plans were made available to teachers this afternoon.
Humanism is a philosophy that asserts the human ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives that aspire to the greater good – without the belief in a higher power.
The lessons have been developed by the Humanist Association of Ireland (HAI) and the Educate Together network of schools and can be downloaded by teachers at any primary school in the country.
The 2016 Irish Census revealed that one in 10 Irish people now identify as non-religious - and the new programme has been created to represent children from these family backgrounds.
The 468,400 respondents who identified as being non-religious marked a 73.6% increase on the 2011 survey – with many commentators arguing the numbers would have been far higher if the questions on the form had been phrased differently.
The first legally-recognised Humanist wedding in Ireland took place in April 2013.
Last year, 1,500 couples chose a Humanist ceremony for their marriage – while about 100 Humanist funerals and naming ceremonies also took place.
HAI spokesperson Philip Byers said the lessons focus on the “fundamentals of humanism and the whole area of people taking responsibility for themselves and for the part that they play in society.”
“The lesson plans are about letting children understand that there are different views and different belief systems around – and that there is nothing wrong with that.”
He said the plans will not form part of the mandatory curriculum – but encouraged teachers to consider including them in the classroom.
Educate Together chief executive Paul Rowe said schoolchildren already learn about a range of different belief systems – and said adding humanism to their education is a natural next step.
“There is a strand on Christianity, a strand on Islam, a strand on Buddhism and there has been a deficit over many years to provide teachers with the tools and resources to properly cover the views and the ethics and the morality of those who do not subscribe to a particular religious viewpoint,” he said.
He said the lesson plans will “go a long way” toward addressing the lack of information regarding humanism, atheism or agnosticism in schools – and will help to “affirm the identity of schoolchildren from family backgrounds reflecting these philosophical outlooks.”
Following the launch of plan this afternoon, both the HAI and Educate Together said that knowledge and understanding of different beliefs should be “at the heart of any inclusive model of education.”
Both organisations warned that the need for inclusion takes on even greater importance in an education system where religious beliefs have long held a privileged position.