The body responsible for designing school curriculums in Ireland is looking for the views of teachers, parents, and others on the teaching of religion, beliefs and ethics in primary schools.

The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment has published a consultation paper which proposes the introduction of a new subject dealing with these areas.

The NCCA paper explores a range of options.

It asks whether a discrete subject should be introduced or whether it should be integrated into existing areas of the curriculum, such as existing religious education programmes.

However, a report commissioned as part of its research says it would not be appropriate for a national programme about religions, beliefs or ethics to be delivered "from a faith perspective".

The NCCA says any national programme should be pluralist and delivered from a general human rights perspective.

98% of primary schools in Ireland currently deliver faith-based religious education programmes. The vast majority of these are Catholic schools.

Three years ago the Forum on Patronage and Pluralism recommended the introduction of a separate national ERB and Ethics programme. 

The NCCA has been tasked with developing the programme.

The report acknowledges complaints from teachers that the current primary school curriculum is already too crowded.

It is due to advise the Minister for Education next year on new time allocations for subjects. Currently two-and-a-half hours are reserved for religious instruction in most primary schools.

This report points that out this allocation is higher than in any other comparable country that it has studied. 

For children the new programme would involve learning about different religions, beliefs and views.

The NCCA says any new programme would aim to foster a respect for and understanding of other views.

The ethics programme would aim to instil a sense of right and wrong, and to develop critical thinking regarding moral decisions.