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The Development of Infant Education in Ireland, 1838-1948

Epochs and Eras


Maura O'Connor

Winner of the Kevin Brehony Book Prize, awarded by the History of Education Society (UK)

This is the first published historical analysis of the development of infant education in Ireland. It spans the period from the opening of the Model Infant School in Marlborough Street, Dublin, in 1838 to the introduction of the child-centred curriculum for infant classes in 1948. A study of early childhood education in Ireland in this period provides an understanding of how the child, childhood and the early years of school were viewed by society. Child-centredness had become a feature of educational practice in Europe in the early eighteenth century and was developed further by Rousseau, Pestalozzi and Froebel. How it manifested itself in schools in Ireland is critically explored in the book through an examination of key reports, as well as through new original primary source material not previously in the public domain. The curricular content, pedagogical approaches and organisation of infant schooling reveal much about the attitudes of those in authority to the youngest children and their educational needs. Interviews with kindergarten advisors, national (primary) school inspectors, lecturers on early childhood education, teachers of infants, and adults who were students in the early decades of the twentieth century provide further insights and enhance our understanding of policies and practices of the time.


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List of Figures ix


List of Figures 1. Model Infant School: Advertisement, Dublin Evening Mail, 5 March 1838. Courtesy of National Library of Ireland. 58 2. Copy of Kindergarten Certificate, July 1887. Courtesy of the Mercy Congregational Archive. 95 3. Syllabus of a Week’s Work in an Infant School, 1923. 205 4. Miss Eileen Irvine, Chief Organising Inspector, conducting a course in Modern Infant School Methods at Our Lady of Mercy Convent School, Blackrock, Co Dublin. Photograph courtesy of the Irvine family, Dublin. 235 5. Infant Class, Marymount School, Dublin, 1940s. Photograph courtesy of the Sisters of Charity, Sandymount, Dublin. 237

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