Elementary school children in Ireland will learn about atheism, agnosticism and humanism. The group Educate Together, a multi-denominational curriculum provider, and the group Atheist Ireland will devise the lesson plans for the students. The curriculum is expected to roll out in the upcoming 2014-15 school year.
Approximately 16,000 elementary students attend multi-denominational schools in Ireland. These students will receive the atheism curriculum during their basic ethics and religion courses. The courses will be approximately 30 to 40 minutes long, and there are 10 classes available.
Children will be using well-known Atheist texts such as The Magic of Reality by Richard Dawkins, an illustrated book for children ages 12+. In addition to texts, the students can also access the Atheism curriculum on the Internet or by apps on their smart phones. This virtual learning is great for Catholic school students who will not be receiving the Atheist curriculum.
The Magic of Reality is an illustrated book by Richard Dawkins that will be used to teach the priniciples of Atheism in Irish primary schools.
Atheist Ireland and Educate Together are attempting to create an objective view of religions across the world, and included Atheism, humanism and agnosticism as part of the curriculum to introduce children to alternate worldviews. With a country that is heavily influenced by Catholicism, this is a welcome change for many non-Catholic and non-religious Irish parents.
Atheist Ireland is soliciting donations to help in developing and designing the curriculum. Their first goal is to raise $10,000 euros (about $13,670 US dollars), but anticipate the project could cost up to $50,000 euros (about $68,350 US dollars).
The Catholic church controls approximately 93% of all primary schools, and this means that most of the theological education given is based in Catholic dogma.
Although the schools are paid for by taxpayers, the Catholic Church has long been in charge of education for Irish school children.
The Irish education minister, Ruari Quinn would like change to occur in primary schools, and hopes that soon elected officials can run the schools in Ireland. While that change has not yet occurred, Quinn is hopeful that groups like Educate Together and Atheist Ireland can help start the process of taking the school curriculum out of the hands of the church.