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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 8 - Planning and Content of the Primary School Curriculum (1971) 237


chapter 8 Planning and Content of the Primary School Curriculum (1971) 8.1 Introduction This chapter examines the process of developing the Primary School Curriculum (1971) and is presented in three distinct phases. The first is the decision to produce a White Paper on Education in 1966, a task that was undertaken by the Inspectorate. Although Towards a White Paper on Education was never completed or published, it was a key document in the production of the 1971 curriculum. It assimilated much national and international thinking on curriculum issues at the time and provided a rationale and structure for the revision and transformation of the curricu- lum. The second phase in arriving at the Primary School Curriculum (1971) was the development of a Working Document in autumn 1968, essentially a first draft of the curriculum. This document developed and extended the section on curriculum within the draft White Paper and judiciously outlined the content in the various subject areas. The third phase related to the production of the Teacher’s Handbooks with the content of the curriculum. These were developed by committees of inspectors between 1969 and 1971 and were distributed to all teachers between the spring (Part 1) and autumn (Part 2) of 1971. 238 chapter 8 8.2 Towards a White Paper on Education (1967) In 1965, the Minister for Education, George Colley, announced a formal review of the curriculum and an examination of lengthening the school day.1 This was superseded the following year by the new Minister for Education, Donagh...

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