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Education for All?

The Legacy of Free Post-Primary Education in Ireland

Edited by Judith Harford

This book, commissioned to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the introduction of free post-primary education in Ireland, examines its origins, legacy and impact. The contributions are written by a range of scholars internationally recognized for their expertise in the fields of history of education, sociology of education, education policy and curriculum. Collectively, they theorize both the historical context for the introduction of free education as well as the impact of the initiative on the promotion of equality of opportunity. The book takes a long view, bringing new knowledge to the field by analysing previously unexamined primary sources, drawing on up-to-date research on educational disadvantage and assessing the changing emphases of Irish educational policy over time.
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5. Responding to the Neglect of Aims in Irish Post-Primary Education (D. G. Mulcahy)

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D. G. MULCAHY

5    Responding to the Neglect of Aims in Irish Post-Primary Education1

Introduction

Imagine the bewilderment of an airline attendant if you turned up at the airport and all you asked for was a return ticket and an aisle seat far forward in the aircraft. As you searched for your passport, the attendant may well have wondered if you had any idea where you were headed. Now imagine a system of schooling that didn’t know where it was going either, but was adamant on how it would get there, that is, by teaching the subjects it had already chosen, using methods of assessment it had adopted from an earlier century. Struck by the odd logic of this scenario, in the late 1970s and early 1980s I began to study the particular form this system took in Ireland as I examined the evolution of curriculum and policy in Irish post-primary education throughout much of the twentieth century. Now, from a different point in time, I am taking the opportunity to look at it again.

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