Wednesday 18 September 2019

Future status of history at Junior Cert still in draft stages - Education Minister

Education Minister Joe McHugh
Education Minister Joe McHugh
Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

Education Minister Joe McHugh is still awaiting official advice on the future status of history at Junior Cycle, but has made clear again that he does not any erosion of its traditional place on the curriculum.

The minister was speaking after the emergence of a draft report providing background on a review being conducted by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA).

Mr McHugh sought the review last year soon after coming into office,  because of his concerns that Junior Cycle reforms would reduce the uptake of history .

It effectively asked the curriculum advisory body, which spent years working  what it considered the best approach to modernising junior cycle, overturn its own advice.

The NCCA document revealed today is a background paper, setting out the arguments for and against making  history a core subject, but does not arrive at a conclusion.

Mr McHugh said that he wanted to allow the NCCA board, “the space and time to deliberate and make their own recommendation”.

A new board was recently appointed at the NCCA and the matter is on the agenda for its first meeting on May 1.

“People know my viewpoint but it is also important that I am not seen to be putting them in a corner before their first meeting”, he said on RTE’s Morning Ireland,  where details of the draft report were released.

Mr Mc Hugh added: “My point of view on this is, we need to come up with some determination to place a value on it.”

Under the new Junior Cycle framework, Irish, English and maths are the only compulsory subjects and it has also introduced a wider range of subject options, such as short courses in coding and Chinese.

The rationale the behind the curricular change was to give schools the flexibility to meet the needs of their pupils as they saw fit, and one point made in the report is that any tinkering with the framework would compromise its integrity.

The shake-up has led to concerns that subjects that have traditionally been popular will lose out and a particularly strong campaign built up around history, including support fro President Higgins.

History was never a compulsory subject, although schools traditionally run by the religious made it mandatory;  it was optional in other second-level schools, but the uptake was extremely high.

More recently geography teachers  made a case for their subject to be given special treatment, but the minister ruled out making any such approaches.

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