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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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Chapter 3 - Implementation of the Revised Programme of Instruction 1900–1921 59


chapter 3 Implementation of the Revised Programme of Instruction 1900–1921 3.1 Introduction In modern history of Education, there is probably in no country such an example of complete change both in administration and methods of instruction as has recently occurred in Ireland; whether we shall in the future be justified in substituting the word reform for the word change time alone can show.1 This chapter examines the question posed by Mr Heller, Head Organiser of Science Instruction to the Commissioners of National Education, in relation to the changes that occurred during the implementation of the Revised Programme. This delineation documents the progress in the various subject areas within the programme by drawing on evidence from inspectors’ reports in the period. The report of Mr F.H. Dale on primary schools, the only major evaluation of the system in this period, is documented. The role of the major educational interests in the imple- mentation process, most notably the teachers, inspectors and organisers, is examined. A detailed analysis of the challenges that beset the imple- mentation of the Revised Programme ensues. The growing inf luence of the Irish language revival movement in the period and its impact on schools is also examined, focusing primarily on the Bilingual Programme introduced in 1904. 60 chapter 3 3.2 Progress of the Revised Programme 3.2.1 Implementation of Subjects Evidence from Inspectors’ Reports The Revised Programme of Instruction was introduced into schools in September 1900. The core established subjects of reading, writing, spell- ing and arithmetic were...

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