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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 5 - Planning and Content of the Primary School Curriculum 1922–1971 129


chapter 5 Planning and Content of the Primary School Curriculum 1922–1971 5.1 Introduction This chapter examines curriculum provisions in Ireland from the advent of independence until the introduction of the Primary School Curriculum (1971). It examines the embryonic stages of development from the Gaelic League programme in 1918, which contained seminal lines inf luencing later curriculum development. The first and Second National Programme Conferences, which reported in 1922 and 1926 respectively, laid the foun- dation and set the tone for the curriculum followed between 1922 and 1971. An analysis of their establishment, composition, terms of refer- ence and modus operandi is documented. The process undertaken to devise the curricula, the individuals and organisations involved and consulted, and the relationship between the process of devising and the end product, are examined to determine the powerful stakeholders in Irish education in independent Ireland. The chapter documents two further key curriculum developments following the 1920s. The first was a minor modification to the curriculum enacted in 1934, with a view to strengthening further the position of the Irish language within schools. Second, a Revised Programme for Infants was introduced in 1948, which represented a hiatus in the philosophy and content of other curriculum traditions in the period. 130 chapter 5 5.2 The Education Programme of the Gaelic League (1918) The Gaelic League was aware of the imminence of some form of independ- ence and began to make preparations to ensure schools would be ready to introduce an education for children more in...

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