07 SES 13 B, Religious Diversity and Interreligious Dialogue
The deficit in research focusing on the tertiary student population in Ireland was a springboard for the research that involved an application of research instruments from European surveys (EVS & ESS) for use with university students in six universities and colleges in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. Initial Teacher Educator and Social Science Students were the sample group and the paper explores the challenging nature of belief in a world of growing intolerance and hate crime/speech, challenging the ideology of inter-culturalism in Ireland, and raising the implications for future professional practice of academic tutors, students and policy makers. The research explored student participants’ awareness of religions and beliefs in contemporary Ireland, North and South. The researchers were particularly interested in the area of religion and beliefs as a consequence of recent shifts in the educational landscape (NCCA 2013, NCCA 2015, DES 2017). The research has enabled an exploration of student awareness of religious and belief identities. The modes of data collection were through on-line survey and focus groups. Findings include a perception of Institutional bias and limited opportunity for alternative view(s) by student voice on controversial, contested areas.
Bias in the selection of library books/resources.
Significantly, this raises implications for the future practice of academic tutors, institutional policy-making and students’ professional lives.
Research Aims: To understand Third Level students’ attitudes to a belief diverse society composed of a wide range of religious and belief traditions and newly arrived immigrant and refugee groups in Ireland North and South. Religions and Beliefs Research is based on: • Perspectives of 900 second year HEA student stakeholders through anonymous voluntary on-line survey (150 students X 6 institutions) • Voices of students on religions and beliefs through 12 self-selected focus groups (10 students max per focus group) Theoretical Underpinning: An increase in Far Right politics across Europe (Faas 2013); hostility towards those who are different in Ireland (Carr 2016, Fanning 2012, Breen 2012 et al.); and a backlash in many countries to the recent migration trends (UN Refugee Agency 2015) form the literature base for this study. The debates have shifted from issues of equality and social inclusion (Modood 2010, Miller 2001), to that of anti-terrorism and hate speech/crime (Carr 2016, Gearon 2015, Jackson 2015, O’Donnell 2016). Intolerance towards ‘difference’ is increasing, due in part to the recent flow of migrants entering Europe, and the aftermath of Brexit (2016) and the Trump election (2017). However, educational institutions are seen as spaces for welcoming new-comers, supporting inclusion and challenging racist and xenophobic behaviour. Five Stages of the Research: 1) Literature review of ‘Religions and Beliefs in Ireland’ (2010-2018), including the researching of sensitive issues (Denham 2001), and approaches which provide for confidentiality, anonymity; 2) Research instrument consisting of an anonymous on-line confidential survey with selected questions and scales from the EVS/ESS (EVS 1981-2008, ESS 2002-2014), adapted for ROI and NI contexts, which enabled the researchers to compare and contrast relevant aspects of the gathered data with a much larger body of existing research. The questionnaire was designed using the anonymous, secure survey package Survey Monkey; 3) 2 self-selecting focus groups in each of the 6 institutions and ongoing data analysis informed by the work of Francis et al (2016). Debriefing opportunities offered to all survey and focus group participants; 4) Consultation and discussion of emerging findings with expert critical friends on the international expert steering group to help uphold high ethical standards given the sensitive and complex nature of the topic; and 5) Dissemination of findings and recommendations through a final report, feedback workshops for staff and students, and academic publications.
This research has implications for the teaching and policy taking place in institutions and the scope for providing alternative perspectives. This requires academic tutors to consider a variety of approaches and pedagogies which allow a range of views to be aired in such a way that the student is not embarrassed, ridiculed or marginalised. Religions and beliefs in changing times research is particularly timely in the current climate of growing intolerance and hostility towards others. As part of a broad discussion about academic tutor professional practice, university students particularly expressed issues of fear and bias. There are implications for how university and college educators respond to `difference' in terms of policy impact and professional practice(s). This is consistent with the findings of European research concerning the need to exchange different perspectives of students, concerning religions and worldviews in a safe learning environment. This research resonates globally at a time of immigration, displacement and new minority groups within Europe and elsewhere. In an increasingly polarised society which challenges the ideology of inter-culturalism (DES 2005 & 2006, Council of Europe 2008, 2016), this research is particularly significant because of the historically contentious and contested nature of religious and belief diversity in the island of Ireland exemplified by sectarianism, intolerance and the backdrop of the ‘troubles’. The interdisciplinary team of researchers were particularly interested in the area of religions and beliefs as a consequence of recent shifts in the educational landscape (NCCA 2013, NCCA 2015, DES 2017) and the research enabled an exploration of social trends and an understanding of student awareness of their own and other peoples’ religious and belief identities.
Indicative References: Arweck, E. (ed) (2016) Young People’s Attitudes to Religious Diversity, Abingdon: Routledge. Breen, M. & Healy, A.E. (2016) Changing Values, Attitudes and Behaviours in Ireland: An Analysis of European Social Survey Data in Ireland, 2002-2012. Newcastle upon Tyne, UK: Cambridge Scholars Publishing. Coolahan, J., Hussey, C. and Kilfeather, F. (2010) The Forum of Patronage and Pluralism in the Primary Sector. Report of the Forum's Advisory Group Devine, D. (2011) Ethnic Minority Children and Youth in Ireland. Springer: Amsterdam. Fischer, K. (2016) Schools and the politics of religion and diversity in the Republic of Ireland: Separate but equal? Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press. ESRI and UCD (2011) Religious Education in a Multicultural Society. (REMC): Religion and Schooling in Ireland: Key Informants' Perspective, Dublin: Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) -University College Dublin (UCD). ESS Round 4: European Social Survey (2014): ESS-4 2008 Documentation Report. Edition 5.3. Bergen, European Social Survey Data Archive, NSD - Norwegian Centre for Research Data for ESS ERIC. EVS (2015): European Values Study Longitudinal Data File 1981-2008 (EVS 1981-2008). GESIS Data Archive, Cologne. Fanning, B. (2012) Racism and Social Change in the Republic of Ireland. Second Edition, Manchester University Press. Daniel Faas, Merike Darmody & Beata Sokolowska (2016) ‘Religious diversity in primary schools: reflections from the Republic of Ireland’ British Journal of Religious Education, Vol. 38(1), p. 83-98. Keast, J. (2007) Religious diversity and intercultural education: a reference book for schools, Strasbourg: Council of Europe. Kieran P., 2011, ‘Children negotiating their own beliefs: The religious education of young children in families in the Republic of Ireland’, in Australian Journal of Religious Education 59 (3) 2011, 50-60. Mawhinney, A., Niens, U., Richardson N. & Chiba Y. (2013) ‘Acculturation and religion in schools: the views of young people from minority belief backgrounds’. British Educational Research Journal, DOI: 10.1002/berj.3016. Mawhinney, A. & Niens, U., Richardson N., Chiba Y. (2012) ‘Religious education and Religious Liberty: Opt-out sand Young People’s Sense of Belonging’. In Henin, M. (ed) Law, Religious Freedoms and Education in Europe. Hunter- London: Ashgate. O’Connell, P. J. and Joyce, C. (2014) ‘International Migration in Ireland in 2013’. UCD Geary Institute for Public Policy, Discussion Paper Series. Parker-Jenkins, M., et al. (2014) Reaching In, Reaching Out: Faith schools, community engagement, and 21st-century skills for intercultural understanding, London: IoE Press. Williams, K. (2005) Faith and the Nation. Dublin: Dominican publications.
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