Sunday 17 February 2019

Education Minister signals he's open to history being core Junior Cert subject

Education Minister Joe McHugh. Photo: Frank McGrath
Education Minister Joe McHugh. Photo: Frank McGrath
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

EDUCATION minister Joe McHugh has signalled he’s open to history being made a core subject for Junior Cert students telling the Dáil that it’s “vital” young people learn from the past.

He said it’s important that the historic contexts of Brexit and events being marked in Centenary Commemorations are understood.

His remarks come amid an ongoing review of the new Junior Cycle Framework which saw history removed as a mandatory subject in many schools.

The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) is due to report on the issue by the end of March.

President Michael D Higgins is among those who have called for history to be made compulsory.

Mr McHugh was asked about the status of history and geography in the Dáil this afternoon by Sinn Féin TD Kathleen Funchion.

He said that since he took up the role as minister he has spoken “about how vital it is that our young people learn from the past so that they can plan for the future.”

“At a national, European and international level it has never been more important for people to understand the lessons of history.”

He mentioned the “very difficult challenges of Brexit” and the events like the War of Independence being marked during the Decade of Commemorations as showing the importance of understanding historical contexts.

He said that the new junior cert programme has “greatly enlivened subjects” and said that it will result in more hours for the teaching of history and geography for students that choose to take them up in many schools.

Ms Funchion raised concern that fewer students will go on to study history at Leaving Cert and higher level education without priority being given to the subject in the Junior Cycle.

Mr McHugh said he doesn’t want to predetermine the decisions to be made by the NCCA as part of their review.

But he said one of the driving motivations for English, Irish and Maths being core subjects is literacy and numeracy.

He said no subject can benefit literacy more than history as it involves research and critical analysis.

Mr McHugh also acknowledged that there could be a decline in the numbers studying history at Leaving Cert level.

He said “there is a bit of time now to work this through” and he added that he has  suggested that the curriculum to include the history of the Irish language as well.

“I think now is the time hopefully, especially in the Decade of Commemorations that history will get its rightful place,” he said.

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