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Primary Education in Ireland, 1897-1990

Curriculum and Context


Thomas Walsh

This book critically examines the context, origins, development and implementation of successive primary school curricula in Ireland between 1897 and 1990. It focuses on three particular policy changes during the period: the Revised Programme of Instruction introduced in 1900, the curricular provisions implemented following the achievement of independence in the 1920s and the Primary School Curriculum of 1971. These three eras are distinctive by virtue of their philosophy of education, the content of the curriculum, the methodologies employed and the concept of the child inherent in the curriculum. The author analyses curricular changes within the complex web of wider educational and societal factors that influenced their devising and implementation.
In this way, he locates curricular developments within the climate of thought from which these policies emerged. The philosophy and ideology underpinning successive curricula are examined, along with the successes and shortcomings of curriculum implementation in each period. This historical analysis of the evolution of the primary curriculum in Ireland has much to offer researchers and policymakers in the contemporary context, amid ongoing curriculum development.


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Foreword by John Coolahan xix


Foreword This book is the first comprehensive historical analysis of curriculum policy, development and implementation in Irish primary schools, over the cen- tury from the 1890s to the 1990s. Up to recent decades, primary schooling was the only exposure to formal education for the great majority of the people. This adds a particular significance to the study. The curriculum and its implementation form the core features of pupils’ schooling experi- ence. This detailed study of what was taught, why it was taught, and how it was taught provides a very informative insight into the nature of the pri- mary education experience of many generations. However, because of the approach taken by the author, as well as being a history of the curriculum, it is also a very informative history of Irish primary education shaped by the political, religious, social and economic changes in Irish society over this eventful century. The book is very well structured. The body of the text comprises three main sections, each with three chapters. In each section the author researches and analyses key epochs of curricular change: – 1897 to 1922; 1922 to 1971; 1971 to 1990. During the first period, Ireland was still under British rule. The turn of the twentieth century was a most lively time in European educational thinking and this had a major impact on the reform ef fort. It was also an exciting period in the Irish cultural revival movement. The author captures all the currents of thought and aspirations very well....

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