HISTORY will be mandatory for first year post-primary students from September, Education Minister Joe McHugh confirmed today.
Following his decision to give History special core status on the Junior Cycle curriculum, the Department of Education has issued a directive to schools to take effect from the 2020/21 year.
History will join Irish, English and Maths as a compulsory subject for incoming first years, but it will have slightly less tuition time than the other three.
Students may sit a maximum of 10 subjects in the Junior Cert, now renamed the Junior Cycle Profile of Achievement (JCPA), which means that they can now select a further six subjects, the choice depending on what their school offers.
Instead of opting for an additional six full subjects - as well as the compulsory four - students can replace one/two of them with two/four short courses, such as Mandarin or Coding, which were rolled out as part of the Junior cycle reforms..
While Irish, English and Maths are accorded 240 hours over three years History is being allocated 200 hours, the same as for the other 17 full subjects on the curriculum
While Minister McHugh previously suggested that he would like History to have 240 hours, it would not have been possible to restructure the curriculum to accommodate that in September.
This is the first time that History has been mandatory for post-primary Junior Cycle students, although practically all schools offered it and it was mandatory in more than two-thirds.
With the reformed Junior Cycle encouraging schools to take advantage new curricular options, such as short courses, there was a concern that, over time, History would suffer.
Shortly after taking office in 2018, Mr McHugh announced that he wanted the National Council for Curriculum and assessment (NCCA) to review the status of History, to make it compulsory.
The NCCA stuck with its original advice and in its report to the minister last year, recommended that it remain an optional subject, but Mr McHugh decided to go ahead with change and asked the NCCA for a further report on its implementation .
The NCCA is also being asked to develop a short course in History for certain students with general learning difficulties/needs. Students in this category will not be required to study the subject ahead of the new short course being made available in September 2021.
Announcing the implementation arrangements today, Mr McHugh said he was “confirming the new core status for History for all students entering Junior Cycle from this September” and thanked the NCCA for its support and advice.
He said he believed “that there is an obligation on leaders and older generations to ensure we provide the opportunity for the next generation to gain an understanding of our past – the good and the bad. We need to afford young people the chance to learn from our chequered history and appreciate how knowledge of the past can shape the future.”
Schools that don’t have a tradition of teaching History , or others that don’t have enough teachers in the subject, have been invited to apply for extra teaching hours to ensure that they can offer it to all first years in September.