To be honest - A school librarian asks: who will teach children to judge and organise information?

Critical thinking begins in the library

Joe Humphrey’s article [The Irish Times, November 19th, 2013] on teaching our children how to solve problems and think critically through philosophy is timely. While philosophy is not on the curriculum, a child’s ability to problem-solve and think critically could have a big impact on their lives under the proposed changes to the junior-cycle curriculum.

I wonder if parents have read the National Council for Curriculum Assessment (NCCA) Key Skills of Junior Cycle , one of which is managing information and thinking? It says these key skills will “be embedded in the curriculum through the statements of learning and in curriculum specifications. Teachers are encouraged to build them into their class planning, their teaching approaches and into assessment”.

As a school librarian and teacher (yes, we teach) I am open to initiatives that will help my students reach their learning objectives. However, I do not think the NCCA has thought through the practicalities of implementing this key skill. The plan is that students gradually improve their capacity to search for information from different sources; develop skills in judging and discriminating between information types and sources; develop strategies for organising information; develop skills in higher-order reasoning and problem-solving.

Surprisingly, there’s no mention of using information ethically and using digital information tools responsibly.


All very noble and if I were a parent I would want my son or daughter to be taught these skills, not only for the junior cycle, but also for Leaving Cert, at university and at work. However, who is going to teach these skills and where will students learn them?

Teachers are not trained in accessing and evaluating research resources and research methodology. A few fee-paying schools and some others are fortunate to have a school library and a qualified librarian who can teach this. But what if your son or daughter doesn’t attend one of these schools or your child’s school is miles away from the nearest public library? Is this another example of a two-tier education system? Will this impact on their future learning success? How will this resource gap be bridged for your child? Where will it appear in the timetable? Every child in the country deserves equitable educational opportunity.

It is important educational decision makers such as the Minister of Education, the NCCA, school principals, boards of management and parent-teacher associations recognise the value of school libraries in preparing students for the 21st century. School librarians can play a role supporting the new curricula, making cross-curricular connections and integrating research and media into students' learning. As a school librarian I am ready and willing to play my part.

This column gives a voice to those interested in education. Contributions welcome to