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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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Acknowledgements xv


Acknowledgements The completion of this book has been made possible by the assistance and encouragement of many colleagues and friends. I wish to record my appreciation to all of them for their moral support, wise counsel, interest and collegiality. In particular, I wish to express my profound gratitude to Professor Kathy Hall, for her professional support, unfailing encour- agement, expert guidance, and above all, her friendship. I would like to acknowledge my indebtedness to my friends, Maura Grant, Anne Marie Herron, Margaret O’Neill and Dr Thomas Walsh, who were extremely generous with their time and expertise, and provided invaluable critiques, direction and pertinent comment. The consistent and unconditional support of Dr Gearóid Berry, Dr Catherine Furlong, Dr Patrick O’Connor and Dr Ciarán Sugrue has been a source of much encouragement and inspiration to me during the writing of this text. A special word of thanks is due to Dr Andrew Burke, Profes- sor Emeritus John Coolahan, Professor Emeritus Áine Hyland, Miss Susan Parkes and the late Fiachra Ó Dubhthaigh for their scholarly insights which inf luenced and guided me in so many ways. I wish to acknowledge the support of the staf f at St Patrick’s College, Drumcondra, Dublin, and that of its President, Dr Pauric Travers. Professor Mark Morgan and Dr Mary Shine Thompson deserve special thanks for their interest and advice. I was delighted to be awarded the Professional Development Fellowship by the College which af forded me a wonder- ful opportunity to undertake this work. This...

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