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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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Introduction 1


Introduction This book critically examines the context, origins, development and imple- mentation of successive primary school curricula in Ireland between 1897 and 1990. In particular, it focuses on the three major policy changes during the period, introduced in 1900, 1922/1926 and 1971. It analyses these changes within the complex web of wider societal and educational factors that impacted on the devising and implementation of successive curricula. It documents the philosophy of education underpinning each curriculum and details the range of subjects included. Following an examination of the policy development process, the successes and shortcoming in the imple- mentation of each curriculum is detailed. The concluding chapter distils a number of key themes that emerge from reviewing a century of curriculum development and implementation and highlights important considerations for curriculum innovation in the contemporary context. The primary school curriculum was particularly important in the formation and education of pupils through the largest part of the period under review, representing, as it did, the only formal education available to the majority of pupils. The successful design and implementation of curricula impacted not only on the quality of educational experiences for individual children at any particular time but also had important implica- tions for the future well being of citizens and for society as a whole. One of the chief aims of establishing the national system of education in 1831 was to socialise the Irish population into certain norms and to provide for basic literacy and numeracy. This endeavour continued, albeit with dif...

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