Founded in 1845, the National University of Ireland (NUI) Galway is the largest and oldest university based in the west of Ireland. NUI Galway is a research-led University and is ranked in the top 1% of Universities globally. The School of Education, NUI Galway is the national leader in Ireland with respect to the issue of diversity in teaching and teacher education and our research focus includes religious diversity in different domains of the education system and school organisations.
A key issue in the Irish system is the manner in which Church and State co-exist within the sphere of education. The majority of schools at primary level (95%) and a significant percentage of second level schools are under the control of the Church (mainly the Catholic Church). Although historically the population of Ireland was mainly white and Catholic, a significant demographic change happened during the decade of rapid economic growth that became known as the Celtic Tiger (1990- 2006). During this period Ireland’s demographic profile changed dramatically with respect to race, ethnicity, nationality and most notably, in the case of schools, religious affiliation and practice.
The demographic change has created a demand for a more religiously diverse school system and curricula and teaching and learning approaches that promote inter-cultural and religious dialogue and tolerance. The work of researchers at the School of Education at NUI Galway is positioned at the nexus of these challenges faced by the system and the current impact on teacher educators, teachers and school leaders. NUI Galway will lead the research and evaluation component of LIFE 2 exploring the impact of pedagogic innovations on students’ levels of religious and cultural tolerance across Europe. Our findings will inform teachers, school leaders, curriculum developers and policy makers.