The contribution of the Presentation Brothers to Irish education 1960-1998 : a study of a Roman Catholic religious teaching institute in a time of change and transition
The Institute of Presentation Brothers is a Roman Catholic religious Congregation founded by Edmund Rice in Waterford, in 1802. The Brothers declare their mission to be Christian formation, primarily of youth and in particular of the poor and disadvantaged. The aim of this thesis is to outline and examine the contribution of the Brothers to education in Ireland in the period 1960-1998. Taking account of the Catholic Christian tradition and against the background of the nineteenth century Ireland the thesis describes the growth and development of the Brothers' work. Particular attention is focused on the period from 1960 onwards and how the twin forces of change in society and in the Catholic Church impacted on the Brothers' contribution to education. The thesis considers how the Brothers have dealt with the major educational issues of the time. The key issues of training and personnel are dealt with, along with an analysis of the special role of religious education, Irish culture and sport in the Brothers' schools. The educational philosophy of the Brothers is traced from its origins as is the challenge to articulate a contemporary Presentation philosophy of education. The contribution of a number of significant educational leaders among the Brothers is highlighted and the views of a range of past-pupil writers are offered regarding the quality of their educational experience in Presentation schools. The primary motivation for the Brothers' involvement in education is religious. They are committed to a Catholic vision of education which has profound implications for the lives of young people. The rapidity of change has radically altered the presence and role of the Brothers in Irish education in the last forty years. The thesis contends that this period can be divided into two phases, roughly approximating to twenty years each. During the first phase the Brothers' educational mission lacked vision and strategy. It was a time of confusion. The second phase has seen the Presentation Brothers and their co-workers grapple with deeper educational questions. A new vision is forming and the present position of the Brothers and their associates is analysed along with the contemporary challenges they face in education. During the period 1960-1998, the Brothers conducted a network of schools at primary and secondary level. In the last ten years they have also developed a variety of other educational initiatives. This study contends that the Presentation Brothers have made and continue to make a distinctive contribution to the education of thousands of young Irish people. The problems that face the Presentation Brothers as we move into the new millennium are many and complex. An analysis of the past may provide valuable learnings for the future and so an evaluation of the Brothers' contribution to education since the onset of rapid change in the 1960s is attempted. The study contends that the Catholic/Edmund Rice educational vision of the Brothers, given re-articulation and commitment has much to offer to young people and to the Ireland of the future.