History and the curriculum

 

Sir, – With regard to our present Government and decision-making, for the first time in many months I was heartened and delighted at the decision by our Minister of Education to give history “special core status”. How unexpected and encouraging it is to see a Minister make an independent decision on what will have a huge educational and positive impact on our children.

Let us hope that this rare bravery within Government might be the start of a new era. – Yours, etc,

DIANE CAHILL,

Greystones,

Co Wicklow.

Sir, – I commend Minister for a Education Joe McHugh for standing up for the importance of history in the curriculum at Junior Cycle. He is just in time. My first years this year did not know who Michael Collins was! This was a first. – Yours, etc,

ANNETTE QUINN,

Dublin 16.

A chara, – While sharing the general euphoria surrounding the recent ministerial decision to designate history as a core junior cycle subject, I feel that the whole episode raises some broader curriculum policy issues for further debate.

In accordance with the terms of the 1998 Education Act, the members of the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) who originally decided not to include history in the core curriculum represent the main education partners. They have been nominated by powerful bodies such as the teacher unions, school management bodies and bodies representing parents and employers. It is reasonable to assume that these nominees had consulted with their various constituencies before the NCCA decided on a reduced core curriculum, a decision that the NCCA subsequently upheld when the Minister sought a review.

In the course of his recent RTÉ radio interview with Ryan Tubridy, Mr McHugh averred that his reversal of NCCA’s policy advice was based on discussions with members of the general public. What does this say about the perceived effectiveness of the current representational constitution of the NCCA as set out in the Education Act? To what extent was this a case of the triumph of media pressure over established partnership approaches to curriculum policy making? And now that a precedent has been established, what next?

Many champions of the importance of history have highlighted its potential to enthuse and excite pupils and promote their interest in the subject. Given that “assessment is the tail that wags the curriculum dog”, let’s hope that such aspirations are achievable in an environment where assessment is likely to involve a written examination after three years with a premium on the recall of pre-prepared answers. – Is mise,

Dr JIM GLEESON,

Castletroy,

Co Limerick.