History to remain optional at Junior Cert, under draft report

Final decision rests with Minister for Education

A Constance Markievicz 1918 election poster, erected last year to mark a special exhibition. File Photograph: Getty Images

A Constance Markievicz 1918 election poster, erected last year to mark a special exhibition. File Photograph: Getty Images

 

History could remain an optional subject in the Junior Certificate cycle, under a draft report from a government-ordered review.

The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) does not recommend the subject to be restored as a mandatory subject, according to RTÉ, which has seen the draft.

However, a final decision rests with Minister for Education Joe McHugh, who ordered the review last November.

The 20-page report says any changes to a single subject such as history would have implications for the junior cycle framework as a whole.

It adds that relatively little public attention has been given to a new specification for all subjects, which allows for schools to cover history in a more flexible way to suit learners.

Deridre Mac Mathuna, president of the History Teachers Association for Ireland, said she was disappointed.

“What history has shown us is that things constantly change,” she said.

“So we will continue with our campaign to promote our subject, to promote its value, and to hope that at some point when new reforms yet again come into our education system, people will look back and see that the choices laid down in this current document need to be reviewed again.”

In January, Minister for Education Joe McHugh told the Dáil that in the decade of commemorations “the time has come for history to take its rightful place”.

Although he said he did not wish to pre-determine the outcome of the NCCA review at the time, he added that while Irish, English and maths are core subjects because they “benefit literacy and numeracy, no subject is of more benefit to one’s literacy than history.”

“It is of benefit to one’s research skills and in analytical and critical analysis,” he said.

Speaking to the Irish Times after the disclosure of the draft review, Mr McHugh said the current crisis over Brexit “screams” the importance of history being taught to children.

“What better place and what better way to highlight the importance and value of history in a child’s education then where I am today. I am standing on the border at Bridgend, a few miles from Derry,” he said.

“I’m greeting Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the US House of Representatives. Speaker Pelosi has taken the time and made the effort - unlike plenty in the Brexiteer camp - to come to see the seamless, frictionless passage of people and goods between Donegal and Derry.

“It is a practical example of living through history.

“What better demonstration of the importance of history in our children’s education. We are living through history - the Brexit question, the border, the Irish-American connection, our immigration story, conflict to peace, the decade of commemorations, the Good Friday Agreement. It all screams the importance of history. Look at the lessons our young people can and should learn from of all of our experiences.”

It is understood the draft report is unfinished and that a fully completed report will not go before the NCCA board until May 1st.