History of Education

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“The period between 1965 and the end of the 1980s witnessed significant developments, not only in the provision of post-primary schooling in Ireland, but also in the way in which schooling was understood.”

Introduction

The period between 1965 and the latter end of the 1980s witnessed significant developments in the provision of post primary education in Ireland. This coincided with changes in Irish and indeed worldwide society. What makes the changes that came about so significant was the fact that for so long education policy in Ireland had remained practically untouched. From the 1920s to the 1950s, Ireland was still a place where education was seen as Ideological and a “preserve of the middle classes”. The church/religious orders were still underpinning the structures in education. The 1920s was the era of the Gaelic League, and an attempt at reviving the ancient life of Ireland as a Gaelic State. During this time little was done to tackle the low levels of participation in education, especially amongst some groups of society, particularly people from poorer socio economic areas, people from rural areas, and girls in education. It was essentially a period of stagnation from the point of view of any development by government, or any change in attitude from the public towards education. Children were needed on farms to make ends meet.

From the mid-sixties onwards however, things began to change. Over the course of the paper I hope to show how the general public understanding of and attitude towards education changed. I will discuss how the government’s attitude towards education also changed, in a number of ways, including how it was provided, and also what was provided as education. Policy, Curriculum, Access and Financing are areas that were all areas of major change. I hope to discuss how these changes in the provision of post-primary education came about, and how the understanding of schooling evolved and were articulated.

Changes in public perception of education

One of the biggest changes in Education during the 60‘s and early 70’s, was the way people viewed and understood Education. Ireland in the 1930s and 1940s was in a very bad economic situation, with an ailing economy and mass emigration. Between 1932 and 1948, Tomas Derek served as minister for education and effectively done nothing of major significance. Economic conditions were the basis for the decisions made during this time. It was felt there was no need to change the curriculum, peoples thinking was still very rigid, and the thought of free education wasn’t thought of as any way feasible or realistic, with ideas around this described as utopian. Developments were still being affected by post war economic conditions.

So what paved the way for the change that was to come? The American economist and historian, Walt Rostow, in his book, “The Stages of Economic Development”, argues that there are 5 stages on the “Road to Development”. He speaks of a situation where there is a traditional society, where the ruling elite have all the say and prospects, and the lower income person has little or no prospect of improving their lot. Social customs and traditional values are strong. He argues that there is a second stage, and this is the one I feel Ireland went through in the latter half of the 50s, early 60s. He calls it “The Preconditions for Take-off”. In this stage people become more away of the possibilities that exist for them, and more aware of the benefits of education and developing new skills for careers away from the traditional farming. Prior to the Investment in Education bill, and the dawn of Free Education, Free buses, comprehensive schools, curriculum changes, there had to be a change in the way people thought. So what brought about this change?

Around this time there was a radical change in peoples thinking and also in their expectations for life, brought on by, amongst other things; • The dawn of television, which brought...
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