The specification for Junior Cycle Religious Education is built around three inter-connected strands:
- Expressing beliefs
- Exploring questions
- Living our values.
This strand develops students’ ability to understand, respect and appreciate how people’s beliefs have been expressed in the past and continue to be expressed today through lifestyle, culture, rites and rituals, community building, social action and ways of life. It enables students to appreciate that people live out of their different beliefs — religious or otherwise. It also focuses on understanding and appreciating that diversity exists within religions.
This strand enables students to explore some of the questions of meaning, purpose and relationships that people wonder about, and to discover how people with different religious beliefs and other interpretations of life respond to these questions. It focuses on students developing a set of knowledge, understanding, skills, attitudes and values that allows them to question, probe, interpret, analyse and reflect on these big questions, in dialogue with each other.
This strand focuses on enabling students to understand and reflect on the values that underlie actions and to recognise how moral decision-making works in their own life and in the lives of others based on particular values and/or beliefs. It also enables students to engage in informed discussion about moral issues and respectfully communicate and explain opinions, values and beliefs.
The three strands are underpinned by a set of cross-cutting elements:
- Reflection and action
These elements describe both a set of skills and an approach to learning that are important for Religious Education.
This element focuses on stimulating students’ curiosity and prompting their engagement in a topic or question. Through a process of enquiry, students engage with a range of stimulus materials to uncover ideas, facts, information, images and perspectives related to a topic or question.
This element focuses on examining a topic or question in detail, questioning, probing, discussing, listening, imagining, interpreting and drawing conclusions, for the purpose of discovery. It also focuses on encouraging dialogue and appreciation of the diversity of interpretations and responses that may exist.
This element focuses on students reflecting on what they have learnt and on their own experience of, and/or response to, the topic. It encourages students to examine what they have learnt in order to gain deeper insight and understanding. It also enables students to consider how the learning relates to their lives and/or to the lives of others, thus prompting active and responsible citizenship.
Junior Cycle Religious Education has been designed for a minimum of 200 hours of timetabled student engagement across the three years of junior cycle. The Classroom-Based Assessments will be set at a common level and there will be a common level externally-assessed final examination.
The specification affords freedom for teachers to facilitate learning in a way that reflects students’ individual curiosity, choices and convictions. Working with this specification, teachers will plan learning experiences that are relevant and can engage students coming from a range of backgrounds, beliefs and world-views. In using the learning outcomes, teachers should plan for learning that is inclusive, engaging and genuinely responds to students’ interests and questions. While students may draw on their own experience in an examination, their personal faith commitment and/or affiliation to a particular religious grouping will not be subject to assessment.