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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 9 - Implementation of the Primary School Curriculum 1971–1990 283


chapter 9 Implementation of the Primary School Curriculum 1971–1990 9.1 Introduction This chapter analyses the implementation of the Primary School Curriculum (1971) by examining the broad array of evaluations and com- mentaries on the curriculum between 1971 and 1990. The expansion of the education departments in universities created a growing cohort of academics and researchers with expertise in various aspects of education. These generated data and fuelled debate on educational issues, and the growing number of organisations and conferences provided fora for the dissemination and discussion of research findings. The achievement of a graduate profession for teachers in the mid-1970s opened the possibility of study at postgraduate level and understanding the implementation of the curriculum in this period was enhanced through such postgraduate research. While many of these studies were localised and small-scale in nature, they provide case studies and insights into practice at classroom level and from the perspective of teachers at the frontline of the educa- tion system. At the outset of the chapter, a number of large-scale studies by the Inspectorate, the Conference of Convent Primary Schools, the INTO, the Curriculum Unit, the ERC, the CEB and the Department are docu- mented. The vast array of smaller scale studies by postgraduate researchers and academics are subsequently categorised under the subject areas of the curriculum and by overarching themes. 284 chapter 9 9.2 Large-scale Studies on Curriculum Implementation 9.2.1 Evaluations by the Inspectorate In March 1974, following three years of implementation, the Inspectorate issued questionnaires to forty-eight...

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