Thursday, 18 January 2018

NUI Galway Study on Attitudes Towards Teaching Religion in Ireland

Study finds attitudes of those in initial teacher education in Ireland have a tendency to comply with, rather than endorse or reject teaching religion The School of Education at NUI Galway has carried out the first ever study in Ireland that explores the religious affiliations and religiosity of applicants and entrants to undergraduate primary Initial Teacher Education (ITE) programmes in Ireland. Since 96% of state primary schools in Ireland are denominational, considering religious diversity in teaching is both critically important and a complex undertaking. The study explores the backgrounds, motivations and perspectives on the Irish education system of applicants and entrants to Initial Teacher Education programmes across Ireland. The research, published this week in the European Journal of Teacher Education, explores the religious backgrounds, religious practice and attitudes towards teaching religion of applicants and entrants to primary teacher education programmes. While there has been much debate about the compatibility of publicly funded denominational schools with growing religious pluralism and secularism in Ireland and internationally, these debates have so far, mostly focused on equity of access to state-run schools and freedom of religion and conscience for children and their families. The position of teachers in a predominantly denominational primary school system has received much less attention in academic and policy discourse. The study interrupts the silence and invisibility of atheist, non-practicing Catholic and minority faith students and practicing teachers, and highlights the need to critically examine teaching and teacher education policy and practice, including access to Initial Teacher Training, the ITE curricular and pedagogical spaces, school cultures and employment legislation, from a social justice perspective that includes a religious diversity dimension. The data gathered suggests low levels of religious practice and religiosity among ITE applicants, many of whom would prefer to teach religion using a non-confessional approach. The study raises critical questions regarding the experiences, constitutional rights and professional practice of increasingly secular and/or non-practicing Catholic teacher cohorts in a predominantly Catholic primary education system that has survived the trend towards the progressive ‘unchurching’ of Europe. Lead author of the study, Dr Manuela Heinz from the School of Education at NUI Galway, said: “Our main data collection method is an anonymous voluntary cross-sectional online questionnaire implemented annually with applicants to all state-funded Initial Teacher Education programmes across Ireland. The diversity in the ITE study addresses the data vacuum with regard to ITE cohorts’ socio-demographic backgrounds in relation to their religious affiliations, religious practice, and attitudes towards religious education in primary schools in Ireland.” Dr Heinz continued, “We noted a high non-response rate (25%) to an open-ended question probing respondents to express their feelings about teaching religion which may indicate that a significant proportion of ITE applicants were reluctant or felt uncomfortable to disclose their personal thoughts regarding the requirement for primary teachers to teach religion in the majority of primary schools in Ireland, even in an anonymous survey. “In addition, we also noted a widespread tendency of complying with, rather than endorsing or rejecting, the teaching of religion with many respondents using language like ‘it’s no problem’, ‘part of the job’, ‘grand’, or ‘doesn’t bother me’ in their responses. It may be that enculturation into Catholic education and possibly positive experiences and memories of ‘no harm’ have led many to uncritically accept the status quo. Or, alternatively, it may be that many of those considering and/or entering the teaching profession feel that they have no choice in the matter, that they need to comply and be prepared to take on the role of religion teacher if they want to succeed, even if they are not religious themselves, do not practice or believe.” Dr Heinz added: “We are hoping that this research will trigger more thinking about the characteristics and qualities we are looking for in teachers. Considering that only 58% per cent of our respondents considered themselves to be ‘a religious person’, we need to ask what about the others? What experiences await them as they pursue careers as primary teachers? In our study, the great majority of respondents indicated a clear preference towards teaching children about different faiths/world views/religions with some respondents stressing the importance of tolerance, equal treatment and/or of children making up their own minds with regard to religious beliefs.” In light of the findings presented in this study, the authors conclude that the prospect and experience of entering a third level learning and future professional space that is permeated by a religious, predominantly Catholic ethos, will cause conflict between personal beliefs and professional requirements for many potential and actual Initial Teacher Education applicants and entrants. This situation will most likely result in some highly motivated and suitable individuals who are atheist, non-practicing Catholics or from a minority religious background deciding against a career in teaching. Those who enter Initial Teacher Education training, despite the considerable religious barriers, may experience significant, and likely unforeseen, difficulties throughout their ITE and professional careers due to tensions between their personal and professional lives. The study suggests that it is time to ask whether it is fair, ethical or moral to put individuals who are committed to the education of our children in this difficult situation.  The study was funded by the Irish Research Council as part of the ‘NUI Galway Diversity in Initial Teacher Education (DITE) in Ireland’ research project, and was led by principal investigators Dr Manuela Heinz, Dr Elaine Keane and Dr Kevin Davison from the School of Education at NUI Galway. To read the full study in European Journal of Teacher Education, visit: http://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/NWVyqIwyY44JCYRCnzbm/full -Ends- 


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Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Den tríú bliain déag as a chéile, beidh Ospidéal na mBéiríní ar oscailt in OÉ Gaillimh Déardaoin, an 18 agus Dé hAoine, an 19 Eanáir. Tiocfaidh breis agus 1,300 béirín tinn chun an ospidéil lena bhfeighlithe, 1,300 páiste bunscoile. Is é an Cumann Sláinte, craobh OÉ Gaillimh de Chónaidhm Idirnáisiúnta Chumann na Mac Léinn Leighis, agus suas le 200 mac léinn leighis agus eolaíochta a bheidh ar láimh le scrúdú leighis a dhéanamh ar na béiríní agus le cóir leighis a chur orthu. Tá súil acu go gcuideoidh an ócáid le páistí, idir 3-8 mbliana d’aois, a bheith ar a suaimhneas nuair a bheidh siad ag an dochtúir nó san ospidéal. Thar na blianta, thug páistí béiríní chuig an ospidéal agus iad ag samhlú go raibh réimse leathan tinnis ag gabháil dóibh cosúil le cluasa tinne, boilg bhreoite agus gach cineál gearán eile faoin spéir. Bhí an méid seo a leanas le rá ag Sally Cahill, mac léinn leighis sa tríú bliain in OÉ Gaillimh agus comh-iniúchóir an Chumainn Sláinte: “I mbliana táimid ag déanamh ceiliúradh ar thrí bliana déag d'Ospidéal na mBéiríní. Le roinnt blianta anuas, tá méadú tagtha ar líon na scoileanna atá ag iarraidh freastal ar an ócáid agus, dá bharr sin, tá an ócáid i bhfad níos mó anois chun béiríní na Gaillimhe ar fad a leigheas. Beimid ag súil go mór na chéad ‘othair’ a fheiceáil Déardaoin, an 18 Eanáir agus tá súil againn ospidéal taitneamhach a chruthú do na páistí ar an lá.” I mbliana, tá 25 bunscoil áitiúil páirteach san ócáid, sin os cionn 1,300 páiste. Nuair a thagann na páistí chuig Ospidéal na mBéiríní ar an gcampas, rachaidh siad chuig an 'seomra feithimh', áit a mbeidh lámhchleasaithe agus maisitheoirí aghaidheanna ag fanacht leo. Ansin buailfidh na páistí agus na béiríní le foireann de Dhochtúirí Béiríní agus d’Altraí Béiríní a chuirfidh scrúdú leighis orthu. Beidh meaisíní speisialta X-gha agus MRI ag na mic léinn ar fhaitíos go mbeidís ag teastáil ó na béiríní. Beidh Cógaslann Béiríní ann chomh maith, agus beidh torthaí sláintiúla ó Burkes Fruit and Veg ann mar aon le soláthairtí leighis urraithe ag Cógaslann Matt O’Flaherty le cóir leighis a chur ar na béiríní. Nuair a bheidh an méid sin curtha díobh acu beidh deis ag na páistí spraoi a bhaint as preabchaisleán agus beidh cumann lámhchleasaíochta an choláiste i mbun siamsaíochta. Rinne Banc na hÉireann, Dunnes Stores, Oifig na gCumann in OÉ Gaillimh agus Cumann Cosanta Leighis urraíocht ar an ócáid chomh maith. Bhí an méid seo a leanas le rá ag Ríona Hughes, Oifigeach na gCumann in OÉ Gaillimh: “Is deis iontach é Ospidéal na mBéiríní don chumann chun cuireadh a thabhairt do pháistí agus a mbéiríní chuig an gcampas agus chun taithí luachmhar foghlama a thabhairt do chách. Tá sé ar cheann de na cláir for-rochtana pobail is deise agus is spraíúla atá idir lámha ag cumainn OÉ Gaillimh agus táimid an-bhródúil as chomh maith agus a éiríonn leis an ócáid. Comhghairdeas leis an gCumann Sláinte a thugann deis do líon chomh mór dár gcuid mac léinn a bheith rannpháirteach san ócáid seo do chúis chomh dearfach agus tá súil againn go mbainfidh gach a mbeidh páirteach an-sult as an gcúpla lá seo.” -Críoch-

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

NUI Galway is hosting a Mature Students Open Evening on Wednesday, 17 January from 5.30-8pm in the Orbsen Building Foyer. The open evening is an opportunity to find out more about degree programmes on offer, entry requirements, CAO application procedure, mature scholarships and practical student supports within the University.   The information evening is designed for anyone aged 23 and over who is considering embarking on full-time or part-time undergraduate degree programmes at NUI Galway for 2018. In attendance will be representatives from each of the University’s five colleges to answer questions on degree options available. The Centre for Adult Learning and Professional Development will also be present to discuss part-time studies that could start you off in higher studies or add to existing qualifications. Trish Bourke, Mature Students Officer at NUI Galway, said: “Embarking on third-level education can be quite a challenge for many mature students. Some may have been out of formal education for some time but it is important to highlight that there are routes to university through NUI Galway’s Access courses. I studied my undergraduate degree as a Mature Student at NUI Galway and I understand the determination it takes and supports needed to complete your studies. Without the confidence and advice given to me through events such as this one, I probably would never have taken that first step.” The Mature Students Officer will commence the evening by delivering a presentation on the CAO application process and reference the criteria needed for entry. Trish will also highlight information on assessments required for entry to Arts, Medicine and Nursing.  To attend this evening you may sign up now at: http://www.nuigalway.ie/mature/public-events/ -Ends-

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

An innovative multidisciplinary aquaculture project led by NUI Galway and Athlone Institute of Technology is set to improve production efficiencies and management of farmed fish at several inland freshwater sites. The project ‘ECOAQUA’ has received €348,781 in funding under the European Maritime Fisheries Fund (EMFF), administered by Bord Iascaigh Mhara, through the Knowledge Gateway Scheme, on behalf of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. The output of this project will include new information, new methods, and increased awareness. It has built on capacity for, and developed new partnerships focused on, research and innovation in environment and health. The project aims to test and optimise innovative technologies and processes developed through the linked MOREFISH* project. Led by Dr Eoghan Clifford from NUI Galway and Professor Neil Rowan from Athlone Institute of Technology, with support from Bord Iascaigh Mhara’s technical aquaculture team, ECOAQUA will address critically important needs identified by industry and aquaculture stakeholders including: Analysing the environmental and energy performance of three freshwater aquaculture sites by extensive sampling and remote online monitoring of water parameters. Facilitating the re-use of the treated water, thereby reducing both the volumes of extracted and discharged waters. Enabling the industry to meet stringent environmental regulation while increasing production in a sustainable and cost-effective manner. Piloting technological innovations with industry to ensure the research is easily and rapidly transferrable to the aquaculture sector. Ensuring technological innovations and research results can be leveraged to enable the sustainable growth of this high-potential sector. Enable the industry to leverage the scientific outputs from the project to communicate with government, policymakers and regulators and the public. Dr Eoghan Clifford from the College of Engineering and Informatics at NUI Galway, said: “Aquaculture is recognised to have the potential to address food security concerns in many countries and offer significant economic benefits. Ireland currently ranks as fifth in value and seventh in volume in terms of high value fish species with exports supporting approximately 2,000 jobs. However, the sector in Ireland has remained relatively stagnant and has significant potential to grow, develop export markets and create employment in rural areas. These developments are strongly aligned with Ireland’s FoodWise2025 policy that seeks to grow food exports by 85% to €19 billion by 2025. This research has the potential to introduce innovative monitoring practices, technologies that can enhance the value and sustainability of Irish and European fish stock densities while ensuring the environmental sustainability of the sector.” Professor Neil Rowan from Athlone Institute of Technology, said: “This exciting cross-cutting project leverages on a critical mass of engineering and scientific expertise, industry stakeholders, policy-makers, commercial operators and international experts established through the MOREFISH platform to respond directly to pressing environmental issues that were informed by industry. ECOAQUA will model and profile the global performance (focusing on algal, microbial and energy) of pilot freshwater aquaculture farms, which will ensure that high potential interventions are easily transferable to the industry sector ensuring the intensive sustainability and viability of this industry.” Mr Alan Kennedy, ECOAQUA project manager at NUI Galway, said: “This timely project will improve the water quality of freshwater farms through the incorporation of water treatment technologies and energy reduction interventions into existing flow through farms that will also enable seamless transitions to next-generation production formats.” Damien Toner, Aquaculture Technical Specialist with Bord Iascaigh Mhara, said: “Bord Iascaigh Mhara is delighted to support this innovative and collaborative project. ECOAQUA will provide valuable research into developing improved efficiencies in fish farming that will inform the wider industry on best practice and new technologies to improve sustainability. We are looking forward to working with the teams in NUI Galway and Athlone Institute of Technology on this exciting project.” For further information about the project contact Mr Alan Kennedy, Project Manager, ECOAQUA on 086 8093078 or michaelalan.kennedy@nuigalway.ie. -Ends-

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