Last month, the BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition took place at the RDS in Dublin. It’s been taking place every year for over half a century. This year saw thousands of second-level students taking part, competing for a number of awards.
At the Young Scientists and Technology Exhibition event, Sarah and Kitty from Kinsale Community School submitted a project which seems timely given the current social housing crisis in Ireland. They compared the views of men and women to homeless women in Irish society.
Was it a broad study?
It was broad enough – we did mostly Cork, because that’s where we’re from. So we got 665 surveys in total and we went to schools and we went to cities and surveyed all over the place. And we got a broad enough spectrum.
What about age groups?
Our age groups were very spread out – which we were lucky to get, and our urban and rural were broad as well. The only problem was we didn’t get that many males because they didn’t seem that interested in the survey when we asked. That was a weird thing that we found.
It was very difficult [to get men to take the survey]; some of them would come up with money when they saw us on the street, and when we told them it was a free survey, and told them the topic, they said they weren’t interested any more.
When you see the results, too, men were ten percent less likely to hire a homeless woman, compared to females, and men were twice as likely to have never seen a homeless woman, which is quite interesting.
Women need to stay safe and they’re rarely out in the open. Is it that they’re not seen in sleeping bags on the streets the way men are?
Well, perhaps it’s easier for women to get into housing because a lot of them would have children or perhaps they’re pregnant, so they are lucky that way but at the same time it means that no one is fully aware of their problems and what they have to deal with, as they’re just not seen on the street. It’s a bit pro-and-con.
Homelessness can mean very different things. It’s not just sleeping rough and it’s not just males. Women could be staying in a friend’s house, or staying in a hostel or in medium-term accommodation, they could be fleeing domestic violence.
So what did men and women disagree on?
They disagreed on resources. Males were twice as likely to say addiction services were what homeless women need, and women said counselling. There was a disconnect there.
It’s important to note that most of the politicians who are making decisions on what homeless women need would be male, and if men and women have very different opinions on what women need, perhaps it should be more equal when these decisions are being made. It seems like it’s a big problem.
Luke Coulton-Dillon conducted an investigation into Irish attitudes about religious education at school.
I wanted to find out what the Irish as a whole think about religious education in schools. For the first month and a half of fifth year I was frustrated at having to do two hours of religion a week rather than applied maths – but I pushed to do applied maths rather than religion. During that month and a half, the call for Young Scientists came out, so this frustration was fresh in my mind. So this is how this project came about. So I did a lot of research of literature, and I did a case study and I did a survey of eight questions. Ultimately we came to the conclusion that Irish people have a negative attitude towards compulsory religious education at schools, but specifically that of atheists who have a staggeringly negative attitude.
During the research we found that the aims of religious education are actually quite good, so there’s a mismatch between what it’s meant to do and what it’s actually doing. So I recommended including more areligious topics such as philosophy or moral debate, or a new initiative to improve how it’s implemented in the classroom.