May 24, 2007 / 11:41 AM / 10 years ago

Ireland urged to open more non-catholic schools

STRASBOURG, France (Reuters) - Ireland should open more multi-faith or secular schools to reflect the country’s growing diversity due to recent immigration, a European Commission anti-racism body said on Thursday.

Fully 98 percent of Irish primary schools are still run by the Catholic Church and pupils who do not take part in religious rites “feel singled out”, it wrote in a report on Ireland.

The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI), an independent body linked to the Council of Europe, said immigration had increased a demand for non-faith or multi-faith schools that the Irish education system had not met.

Immigrants now account for 10 percent -- compared with one percent a decade ago -- of the four million population of Ireland, which was traditionally a land of emigration.

“ECRI urges the Irish authorities to promote the establishment of multi-denominational or non-denominational schools and adopt the necessary legislation to that end,” it wrote.

“The authorities should also ensure that the current opt-out system in denominational schools is implemented in a manner which does not make pupils feel singled out.”

Under the current system, the report said, a school could refuse admission to applicants to “preserve their ‘ethos’.”

It said Ireland should keep regular data on minority pupils’ performance and encourage members of minority groups to become teachers.

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