Time for history to take rightful place, Minister for Education says

Joe McHugh refers to decade of commemorations in answer on review of Junior Cert core subject

Joe McHugh said ‘at a national, European and international level, it has never been more important for people to understand the lessons of history.’ Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times

Joe McHugh said ‘at a national, European and international level, it has never been more important for people to understand the lessons of history.’ Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times

 

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

Asked during education questions about whether history would be restored as a core subject for the Junior Certificate, Mr McHugh said he did not wish to pre-determine the outcome of the review by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) which will report by the end of March.

But he said that while Irish, English and maths are core subjects in the Junior Certificate cycle 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.”

Sinn Féin education spokeswoman Kathleen Funchion asked how the decision was arrived at to make history optional at Junior Certificate level from September 2018.

Mr McHugh said that history and geography had been core subjects only in voluntary secondary schools, 52 per cent of schools.

But he added that “it is important to note that currently 90 per cent of students across all school types choose to study history and that 92 per cent choose to study geography at junior certificate level”.

He reiterated his view that “at a national, European and international level, it has never been more important for people to understand the lessons of history.

“As we face the very difficult challenges of Brexit, while also addressing the many aspects of the War of Independence and the Civil War, the Decade of Commemorations will question the importance of understanding the historical context.”

Ms Funchion expressed concern that if priority is not given in the junior cycle far fewer students would take history at Leaving Certificate level.

“In Britain the subject is currently only available as an elective to those aged 16 years and just 40 per cent of students elect to take it,” she said.

The Minister said that along with the review of history he had also asked for the curriculum to be looked at.

“Perhaps it could even include stair na teanga, the history of the Irish language, which takes us back 3,500 years and can open a lot of doors in respect of our place names and who we are as a people.

“I hope that now in the decade of commemorations, the time has come for history to take its rightful place.”