RTE revealed that DCU’s newly formed Teacher Training course, which amalgamated 3 previous colleges of education into its campus, has two separate CAO entry points. In order to get their Bachelor of Education degree, there is the normal route for everyone, which requires 465 points. However, according to their current Prospectus, there is also a “restricted entry” version of the degree. (See screengrab below)
This course requires only 435 points. Therefore, if you are a member of any of these Christian denominations, you have an automatic advantage over someone who is not of this particular faith base. The reasoning appears to be that Church of Ireland schools need to maintain their ethos and they, therefore, require teachers of their own faith.
It is astonishing that this privilege has been afforded to one faith.
If we afford a privilege to one faith, we must do the same for all faiths and none. Otherwise, we have to have a level playing ground for everyone. However, should we really be that surprised that this has been allowed to happen?
It is difficult to ignore the similarities between this blatant discrimination and the same discrimination that occurs in primary schools every year. There is no difference between giving privilege to Protestant students in a Teacher Training degree to giving privilege to Catholic children to attend Catholic primary schools. The so-called Baptism Barrier (a term I don’t like) seems to have had consequences that now affect young adults trying to get into university.
The Patronage model of Ireland must be revisited urgently. Ireland is no longer a duopoly in terms of faith. There are now dozens of faiths represented in Irish society and then there are hundreds of thousands of people who do not subscribe to any faith. It is impossible to give each religion their own type of schooling and we need to find a model that caters to all faiths and none. (This already exists.) We need to disassociate the idea that there is a right for any particular religion to influence the running of a school. Churches should be welcomed into schools like any other outside agency but they should not control what is taught or who enters the building.
We now know that it is entirely easy to do this without the need for constitutional changes. It can be done slowly but there needs to be a plan. One opportunity, which would have helped a little, was if DCU did not allow privilege for one particular faith and simply stated that all students would be welcome, whatever their belief. While change might be difficult, it is no longer acceptable to segregate children or adults by their religious background.