Jes to host major conference on rethinking education in Ireland

Colaiste Iognaid is 150 years at its Sea Road site this year, and as part of the celebrations, an international education conference is being held at the Connemara Coast Hotel, Furbo this weekend.

Entitled “Rethinking Education in Ireland - State and Church’s role in Irish Education: Sharing Responsibility for Renewal”, the conference is building on recent events which have been highlighted in the news concerning who will run schools in Ireland.

The conference will discuss the implications of the changing roles of Church and State in education in Ireland for schools, parents and society, addressing questions such as - is there still a role for the Church in educating children in Ireland? If so, what is it? Since the State has abdicated that role to the Church for so long, how will the State step up and take over this crucial social service? How can there be religious equality in education in Ireland?

According to Mary McKeown, one of the organisers from the Ignatian Identity Group of Coláiste Iognáid, the conference will make an important contribution to the debate and discussion that must take place if we are to create an education system that will serve our children and our society well, in rapidly changing times.

Speakers include:

• Professor John Coolahan, Education Department, NUI Maynooth

• Rev Dr Michael Drumm, Irish Catholic Schools Partnership

• Dr Mary Fleming, School of Education, NUI Galway

• Archbishop Michael Jackson, Dublin Diocese, Church of Ireland

• Paddy Lavelle, CEO Waterford VEC

• Rev Dr Richard Leonard SJ, Australian Catholic Film & Broadcasting

• Dr Anne Looney, National Council for Curriculum and Assessment

• Professor Kathleen Lynch, Equality Studies, UCD

• Rev Dr Jose Mesa SJ, Coordinator, Jesuit Worldwide School Network

• Paul Rowe, CEO, Educate Together

Finding a new civic spirit

Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn and Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin have both given video interviews in advance of the event.

Archbishop Martin says: "Many of those who come out of our Catholic schools are not necessarily models of good Christian living.”

He also repeats his belief that the present model of patronage for schools is no longer fit for purpose and, addressing the diminishing role played by religious orders in secondary education, says that in some cases, with the establishment of trusts, the communication between them, the religious orders, boards of management and principals, has weakened.

"I am aware of some schools where quite frankly the principal isn't aware of what the intentions of the real owners of the school are.”

According to Minister Quinn in his interview with Frank Canavan, former principal of Coláiste Iognáid, there us “still a strong sense of spirituality in this country but it's no longer the monopoly of one particular religious faith".

He also says Ireland needs to find a new civic spirit and morality that includes all citizens, particularly given the welcome widening definition of what it means to be Irish.

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