Geography’s place in schools

 

Sir, – The Irish Times regularly quotes various people – from retired National Council for Curriculum and Assessment personnel, to anonymous “senior education sources”, and the Minister – stating that geography and history were only ever compulsory for half of schools (“Why the Minister for Education gets top marks from teachers”, Analysis, April 23rd).

While this is a red herring in the debate, it is worth noting that geography and history were always compulsory in voluntary secondary schools. In addition to this, since 1999, they have been compulsory in VECs/ETBs but with the option, if they chose, to retain environmental and social studies (as a less academic programme in geography and history). Together that accounts for 86 per cent of schools. Furthermore, the “Rules and Programme for Secondary Schools 2004” stated that all schools, “must include instruction in a syllabus approved by the Minister in . . . history and geography”. Virtually all community and comprehensive schools follow the “Rules and Programme”, and so have history and geography in their core curriculum.

In 2018, roughly 62,000 students sat the Junior Certificate examinations. Of those, 56,513 students sat geography and slightly under 56,000 took history. With almost 94 per cent of students sitting history and geography, both subjects are de facto core subjects in almost all second-level schools.

Previous policymakers knew how essential not just English, Irish and mathematics were, and so made them compulsory, but they also knew how essential a small, open economy and society like Ireland needed school-leavers with skills and knowledge in geography and history.

Current policymakers can help reverse the trend towards a “post-fact world” by ensuring sound educational standards in Ireland and retaining geography and history in the core curriculum of the new Junior Cycle. – Yours, etc,

PETER LYDON,

President,

Association of Geography

Teachers of Ireland,

Clondalkin, Dublin 22.