Junior cycle reform needs consensus


Sir, – Colm O’Connor in his article “History ‘special status’ forces big reversal of Junior Cycle reform” (Education Analysis, October 15th) finishes with the following astute observation: “Deep reforms require a compass bearing, and for this, it seems clear that a national consensus must first be achieved.”

It is obvious from the recent junior cycle (JC) history controversy that a national consensus does not exist with regard to some (and perhaps all) of the JC reforms. This “consensus problem” in part exists because some of the justification that underpin the current JC reforms would appear to be deeply flawed.

Unfortunately, discussion, debate and questioning of these justifications are not really listened to.

For example, three of the justifications given by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (Report on the Optional Nature of History in the Framework for Junior Cycle) to keeping history a non-core subject were:

1) “The new JC was the result of an extensive process of engagement, consultation and deliberation with education and other stakeholders in Ireland.” So why are history (and geography) teachers and others complaining? Many were indeed consulted but were they listened to?

2) “National and international research supports the idea.” But there is also plenty of (especially international) research that does not.

3) “Learning at JC now revolves around twenty-four statements of learning, not subjects.” Is this a good thing? Certainly in the case of history there is a powerful belief among many that it is not.

Instead of simply repeating broad and very questionable justifications, perhaps if those who believe in the new JC reforms acknowledged its shortcomings and actually engaged in debate then a true consensus may be reached. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 15.