The Role and the Influence of the Catholic Church in the Irish Education System

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Analyse the role and the influence of the Catholic Church in the Irish education system to date.

In the following essay I will discuss how significant and evident the role the Catholic Church has played in our education system to date. I will analyse the role and influence of the Catholic Church from the earliest known catholic schools to the catholic schools of the present day. The Catholic Church can be granted the pride of setting up our education system which allows us to compete academically with all the countries of the world today in industry and all other areas of work.

The Catholic Church founded the world class education system we have in place today. The earliest schools the Catholic Church set up set up were in the 6th century. These schools were set up to train boys for church. The entire teaching was religiously related if it did not have some relevance to religion it was not taught. The teachers of these schools were monks. There was little or no writing before Christianity. In the monastic schools boys were taught philosophy, logic and theology. Clonmacnoise, one of the most remarkable of the ancient schools of Erin was founded by St. Ciarán surnamed Mac an Tsair, or "Son of the Carpenter". He chose this rather uninviting region because he thought it a more suitable dwelling place for disciples of the Cross than the luxuriant plains not far away. On 23 January, 544, Ciarán laid the foundation of his monastic school of Clonmacnoise, and on 9 May following he witnessed its completion. The remains of this school can still be seen today. The monastery then began to involve itself a bit more with the local community. The school taught some of the local boys who would have been from families who were financially struggling. The local boys were given an education in exchange for some labour work done around the monastery for the monks. Schools like this were common around the country. There was one set up by St. Finnian in Clonard, co. Meath. It was from here that many other well known saints travelled to Britain and Europe thus forging links between these far flung places and Clonard. It was also well known as one of the distinguished seats of learning in Ireland. Students from all over Ireland, the British Isles, France and Germany came to this school which at one time numbered 3000. A civilisation sprang up here, which developed and spread throughout the country. Thus, showing how the Catholic Church played the primary role in influencing and directing the education system.

The determination and never give up attitude of the Catholic Church can be very evidentially seen as when Ireland was held under penal law in the 18th century. The British were trying to take over our country anglicise it and prostylise it. These penal laws instructed that the Irish were banned from receiving an education home or abroad. This made having an education illegal, in your own country? Priests were banned from saying mass and all were banned from practicing the catholic faith. The church and the education system were in the same position; both were trying to be banished from Ireland. The British did not want the Irish to be educated as this would make them independent. The British wanted to get rid of the Irish Catholics and make Ireland a protestant only country. Priests had to be sent abroad to be educated and then come back to help educate the Catholics and keep the Irish education system and the catholic church alive and active. The Priests set up schools which were hidden away from the ‘red coats’ as my interviewee had described them (British soldiers). These schools were set up in muddy ditches and old barns or ruined buildings. My interviewee stated that these schools were known as hedge schools, and that there were people dotted around the hedge schools at a distance on watch for the ‘red coats’. If it was found out that a priest was teaching or saying mass this priest was hunted down and killed by the British...
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