In an interview with the Irish Times last Thursday, the Minister for Education and Skills, Ruairí Quinn, questioned the amount of time spent on the teaching of Gaeilge and Religion in primary school classrooms. He believes that in light of the extra emphasis that is to be placed on literacy and numeracy, questions need to be asked about Gaeilge and Religion. He was at pains to point out that he was not anti-religion and made a distinction between religion and faith formation:
“I think religion is absolutely essential if you want to understand modern civilisation. But there is a difference between teaching religion and faith formation in schools.”
The Minister claimed in the interview that teachers had told him that up to 30% of class contact time was being spent on these two subjects alone in the classroom. According to curriculum guidelines, teachers of 1st – 6th classes are recommended to teach 3 hours 30 mins of Gaeilge and 2 hours 30 mins Religion per week out of a total of 28 hours 20 mins. That’s about 21% combined on these two subjects. If the Minister wants teachers to spend less time than that officially recommended for these two subjects, then he should come out and directly say so.
Just to point out, the figure of 28 hrs 20 mins per week includes break times, roll call, assemblies etc. Total instruction time (class contact time) in senior classes is 22.5 hours. 6 of those are allocated to Gaeilge and Religion, or 27% of total instruction time – in a Gaelscoil, the figures increase slightly to 6.5 hours, or 29%.
You are, of course, correct John with your figures. However, I don’t know of many schools who spend 50 minutes per week calling the rolla or spend 1 hour 40 mins for assembly time. In my school, like many others, when the bell goes in the morning, the pupils are collected from their lines and brought to class where instruction begins as soon as the pupils are settled. So, in reality, instruction time may well be higher than 22.5 hours.