The syllabuses more modern approach to teaching and learning include the very important innovation for Irish students of practical exams in Leaving Cert biology, chemistry and physics. No one interested in giving Irish students the best education available will want anything to delay such changes – or to give any excuse to politicians not to find the money needed to roll out the reforms – money that will be required both for teacher training and running practical exams.
But now, there are conflicting voices about the best way forward, not only for the sciences but for other subjects that will come due for revision by the NCCA. Both views are strongly held and from respected voices in education.
On the one hand, there is the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA), which sent its advice to Education Minister Ruairi Quinn last week.
On the other we have Prof Aine Hyland, a former professor of education at University College Cork (UCC), but whose contribution to Irish education extends well beyond that. Indeed, Prof Hyland was herself involved in the establishment of the Curriculum and Examinations Board, a precursor to the NCCA. On this, she is in the corner of the Irish Science Teachers' Association (ISTA).
The NCCA and Prof Hyland differ on the amount of detail that should be included in the syllabuses at this stage.
Prof Hyland fundamentally disagrees with the NCCA focus on broad topics and learning outcomes – and is adamant that much more detail needs to be published with the syllabuses, to give teachers the earliest possible sight of what will be expected and what material they might use in the new era. The NCCA says providing such detail is the next stage in the process, and work is under way.
It's up to you minister.