Introduction The period between 1965 and the latter end of the 1980s witnessed significant developments in the provision of post primary education in Ireland. This coincided with changes in Irish and indeed worldwide society. What makes the changes that came about so significant was the fact that for so long education policy in Ireland had remained practically untouched. From the 1920s to the 1950s, Ireland was still a place where education was seen as Ideological and a “preserve of the middle classes”.
The church/religious orders were still underpinning the structures in education. The 1920s was the era of the Gaelic League, and an attempt at reviving the ancient life of Ireland as a Gaelic State. During this time little was done to tackle the low levels of participation in education, especially amongst some groups of society, particularly people from poorer socio economic areas, people from rural areas, and girls in education.
It was essentially a period of stagnation from the point of view of any development by government, or any change in attitude from the public towards education. Children were needed on farms to make ends meet. From the mid-sixties onwards however, things began to change. Over the course of the paper I hope to show how the general public understanding of and attitude towards education changed. I will discuss how the government’s attitude towards education also changed, in a number of ways, including how it was provided, and also what was provided as education.
Policy, Curriculum, Access and Financing are areas that were all areas of major change. I hope to discuss how these changes in the provision of post-primary education came about, and how the understanding of schooling evolved and were articulated. Changes in public perception of education One of the biggest changes in Education during the 60‘s and early 70’s, was the way people viewed and understood Education. Ireland in the 1930s and 1940s was in a very bad economic situation, with an ailing economy and mass emigration.
Between 1932 and 1948, Tomas Derek served as minister for education and effectively done nothing of major significance. Economic conditions were the basis for the decisions made during this time. It was felt there was no need to change the curriculum, peoples thinking was still very rigid, and the thought of free education wasn’t thought of as any way feasible or realistic, with ideas around this described as utopian. Developments were still being affected by post war economic conditions. So what paved the way for the change that was to come?
The American economist and historian, Walt Rostow, in his book, “The Stages of Economic Development”, argues that there are 5 stages on the “Road to Development”. He speaks of a situation where there is a traditional society, where the ruling elite have all the say and prospects, and the lower income person has little or no prospect of improving their lot. Social customs and traditional values are strong. He argues that there is a second stage, and this is the one I feel Ireland went through in the latter half of the 50s, early 60s.
He calls it “The Preconditions for Take-off”. In this stage people become more away of the possibilities that exist for them, and more aware of the benefits of education and developing new skills for careers away from the traditional farming. Prior to the Investment in Education bill, and the dawn of Free Education, Free buses, comprehensive schools, curriculum changes, there had to be a change in the way people thought. So what brought about this change?
Around this time there was a radical change in peoples thinking and also in their expectations for life, brought on by, amongst other things; • The dawn of television, which brought more information into people’s lives, opening their minds to new possibilities and bigger expectations of life, • The establishment of state television in the shape of Telefis Eireann in 1962, which broadcast shows from Britain and America had a profound change on attitude. • Women’s rights, the civil rights movement, the space race, were other events of the time that showed people that there were other possibilities now open to them.
The 1960s generation were more vocal, liberal, and more politically aware. There was a growing awareness around this time of social exclusion, especially when it comes to people from poorer economic backgrounds, rural areas, and women. Together, these factors combined to change the way people were thinking about education, and ultimately, helped to change the way the state thought about education. People were now beginning to see that the longer a person could stay in education, and the more qualified they could become, the better chance they had in life of getting a more desirable job and salary.
Changes in Investment in Education In terms of Investment in education, at the end of the 1950s, and beginning of the 1960s, Ireland was lagging far behind other countries in the world. To give an example of where we Ireland was at in 1959 in regards to investment in education, Ireland was investing 50p per child, whereas Russia was operating at a level fourteen times higher at ? 7, the USA at ? 5 per child, and perhaps most significant for us, GB/NI was investing ? 2. 25 per child in education. Ireland was coming from a very poor time in its economic history, post-World War II.
However, around 1960, there was an upturn in the economy. With this came the thinking that there was a need for more technical skills, leading to the building of 35 Vocational schools, where more technical subjects would be taught. The problem with these schools was that they were poorly resourced, and it was expensive to fund this. The public was becoming increasingly aware of the correlation between spending on education and the increase in the standard of living. There was a growing demand for access to education for all.
The OECD report which was commissioned in 1962 was produced in 1965. The report by the OECD was commissioned to analyse the education system in Ireland, identify areas of weakness, and recommend changes for the future. It was also supposed to identify the “manpower needs” of Ireland over the following 15-20 years. What the report did do was highlight the inequalities that existed in terms of opportunity when it came to access to post primary and 3rd level education and a host of other issues. This was to prove a catalyst for change throughout the following 25 years.
The OECD report was the most thorough investigation of the Irish education system conducted in decades, if not ever. The 1991 OECD review of Irish National Policy has referred to the report of 1965 as “a landmark both in the national and international memory”, and “remarkable for its comprehensiveness, its studied detachment, its theoretical underpinning, its systematic accumulation of a mass of baseline data, its detailed estimates of quantitative trends and not least the originality of the methods that it used to penetrate unexplored territory”.
It highlighted the high instances of school leavers at primary level, (around 17,000 per year (Randles 1975:216)), a low rate of pupils of vocational students going on to third level, (lack of Institute of technology’s at this time), and inequalities in education for children because of geographical location and/or social group, that is, they came from a disadvantaged background financially or from an a rural area with poor access to a school.
The report recommended that there was a need for wider participation of students in schooling and for students to be in the education system for longer periods. The report also brought up the economic benefits to Ireland of having educated people. This was a change from the previous way of thinking whereby children were seen to be wasting their time continuing in education when they could be working and earning a wage. Its recommendations included the following; • increased investment to get more children participating in education, and for longer, i. e.
the use of scholarship schemes to increase participation • a need for policy planning to improve education across the board in Ireland, at all levels • A need for a programme of building which included amalgamating smaller schools to form bigger more efficient schools • Up skilling and training, (or in service) for teachers. The OECD report wasn’t alone in highlighting these issues. The Labour Party policy document “Challenge and Change in Education” 1963, highlighted a lot of the same issues as the report, and highlighted the need for a less discriminatory educational system not only ‘…..
on social or moral grounds, but (as) a basic economic investment’; In the next few years, this country is going to face enormous economic problems, problems which may indeed put our survival as an independent nation in question. It is, therefore, essential that planning in education should be an inherent part of our economic planning. Already shortages of certain types of skill are becoming felt in our economy, and at the same time there is a surplus of other skills resulting in under employment and emigration (Randles 1975).
The Federation of Irish Secondary Schools (1962) report, ‘Investment in Education in the Republic of Ireland’ argued that “Selfishness is almost always short-sighted……maintenance of such restrictions (restricting educational expansion) on educational facilities cannot fail to ultimately adversely affect our Irish economy, and thus indirectly injure both themselves and their families”(O’Sullivan 2005:269). In 1966, Donogh O’Malley announced free education was to be introduced. This was a significant development in Irish society.
“O Malley’s Bombshell”, so called due to his lack of consultation with people over his announcement, detailed free education to leaving certificate at the age of 18, and free buses providing transport for students. This was an attempt to keep children in Education for longer and to an older age. At the time, around 17,000 children left school after finishing primary education. (Randles, 1975:216) He also announced that he was raising the age that children could leave school to 15 years of age from 14 years of age.
This was due to be in place by 1970, but this was later deferred until 1972. (The reason behind this deferral was due to the success of the voluntary participation in second level education after the free education announcement, and also to give time to train teachers to know how to deal with the extra reluctant school goers who have less ability and/or educational motivation. ) The effect on numbers attending post-primary school was almost immediate, with a rise in secondary school enrolment of 15,000 between September 1966 and September 1967.
An example of the popularity of the free bus scheme can be seen in the figures where out of 79,000 pupils in day school, 92% of the day school pupils opted for the “free buses” scheme-(Randles p. 276) The government estimated that the number of pupils in post-primary schools increased from 149,000 in 1966 to 184,500 in 1968, and that the raising of the school leaving age to 15 years of age would eventually lead to over 200,000 before the end of the third programme for education. (Hyland, Milne et al 1995). The success of the bill can be measured in the figures of how many pupils and schools opted into the scheme for free education.
O’Malley had hoped for a figure of 75% of pupils opting for free education, but the figures showed that in September 1967, the figure was in fact sitting at 92%. (Randles 1975:276) An extract from the “Third Programme for Economic and Social Development 1969-1972” which was laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas in March 1969, shows that the government acknowledging the link between education and economic and social development, “The vital role of education in economic and social development and the need for fundamental changes in this sector has been repeatedly stressed in recent years.
This increased emphasis has been reflected in the expansion in state expenditure. During the first programme, Exchequer expenditure on education (excluding agricultural education) increased from less than ? 16 million in 1958/59 to over ? 25 million in 1963/64 at current prices. The rate of increase has been even greater during the second programme; Exchequer expenditure in 1968/69 is estimated at ? 56 million”. (Hyland, Milne et al 1995:41) Changes in Government understanding of education.
By the end of the 1960’s, it was for the first time that economic need was shaping education policy rather than pedagogy of the past. This is reflected when Brian Lenihan, who took over as minister for education when Donogh O Malley passed away suddenly in 1968, ordered a review of the education system with a view to job requirements, further emphasising the point that it was now an economy driven vision of education that we were adopting. However, this review was cancelled when Fianna Fail returned to power in 1969 and Padraig Faulkner was minister for education.
The third Programme for Economic and Social Development also highlighted the need for more qualified teachers. The report states that “The number of teachers in secondary and vocational schools has been increasing by about 400 per year. The increase in 1968/69 is about 800”. (Hyland, Milne et al 1995:43) To facilitate the demand, there was a greater number of places in the relevant faculties in University, courses leading to the Higher Diploma in education was introduced in Maynooth, and there was an increase in departmental courses for the training of vocational teachers.
The growth in the economy and in the technical sector led to the need for more people qualified in the technical areas. This combined with the OECD report highlighting the need for a building programme in Ireland led to the opening of RTC’s, Regional Technology Institutes. The building of the technical institutes regionally was to serve the dual purpose of tackling the problem of people being geographically disadvantaged, and the need for more technical courses.
The relative success in this can be measured in rise of numbers attending, 5. 9% of people took up places in RTC’s in 1965, compared to 36. 7% in 1981-1982. The shift in emphasis or the uptake of higher education courses was towards technical courses, going from a level of 80% of students being in higher education in Universities, to 50% of people taking higher education courses taking up places in technical courses in 1980.
Changes in Government understanding of schooling and curriculum While the period from 1965 to the early 1970s was primarily noted for developments such as the introduction of free education and bus travel, the raising of the school leavers age, and the introduction of comprehensive and community schools, it is worth also focusing on the curricular and educational policies that took places in this period.
The main changes in regards to the curriculum include introducing common courses and examinations in secondary schools, thus enabling students attending vocational schools, comprehensive and community schools to study for the same exams as they would have been doing had they gone down the traditional route and attended some of the traditional secondary schools. Other changes to the curriculum included the introduction of new subjects, the removal of others, and the changing of content in others.
One of the reasons why the second level curriculum was subjected to continuous adaptation around this time(early 1970’s) was to cater for the varied needs and abilities of the greater student population, which was a broader spectrum of student that there had been previously. In 1969, Minister for Education Brian Lenihan produced a booklet called, “All our Children”. The idea behind this booklet was to explain the changes that were happening in education in Ireland, such as the new Primary School Curriculum, the opening of Comprehensive schools, the new subjects and revision of others, as well as the building of technical colleges.
Education in the 1970s may not have strictly followed the guidelines set out in the booklet, but it is an example of the way the government was changing in the way they were thinking about education, and their efforts to keep the public informed. Its publication also highlights the growing demand for information about education from the general population that was occurring at the time. Contrast this to the attitude towards education in previous decades and it highlights how far Ireland had come in such a short period of time.
A further example of the change in how the government were approaching education and policy was evident when in 1970, then minister for education Padraig Falkner, said that there was now a change in the emphasis in educational, and that it was now a case of “passing from that of quantity to quality”, i. e. “from concentration on an expansion in the number of students attending at educational institutions to particular concern with the diversity of opportunity provided, the suitability of curricula, and long term planning for the future.
”(Mulchahy, O’Sullivan 1989:81) This change in thinking and understanding led to developments such as the social and environmental studies project (SESP) based at St Patricks Comprehensive School in Shannon being set up, as well as projects aimed at developing the curriculum in other schools. The Higher Education Authority was set up by an act of the Oireachtas to advise the government on developing higher educational facilities. In 1971 there was the introduction of the New Curriculum for primary schools.
Throughout the 1970s Ireland saw changes at third level, with the setting up of the nine Regional Technical Colleges, two National Institutes of technologies, and the opening of Thomand College. During this period, spending on education soared, from ? 78million in 1970 to ? 443 in 1979. (Hyland, Milne et al 1995:50) Faulkner also set up a committee in September 1970 “to evaluate the present form and function of the Intermediate Certificate examination and to advise on new types of public examinations”. (Randles 1975:315) The rationale behind this came from the drop in the pass rate for the Intermediate Certificate, from 87% in 1968, to 74.
6% in 1969 and then 73. 5% in 1970. This can be attributed to students with a larger span of abilities entering post primary and taking the examinations than had been the case before, and all of these students targeting the Intermediate exam regardless of its suitability to them. It was now being recognised that the Intermediate exam wasn’t suitable to all. The developments at third level are also important to note. Aside from the developmental works/building works done in providing the new RTC’s, aided by the setting up of the Higher Education Authority, teacher training was now looked at as being increasingly important.
Teacher training courses was extended from two to three years; the National Institute for Higher Education was set up in Limerick, and Thomand College acting as a facility where teachers of specialist subjects could be educated. There is also a move to lower the pupil-student ratio, and to have greater accessibility to third level education for all. These changes at government level throughout the 1970s and early 1980s highlight the changes in the thinking behind education. No longer was it a “quantity” issue, it was now about “quality” of education.
Greater facilities, better trained teachers, and increased availability of opportunities at third level are now real issues. If you contrast this to the early 1960’s, where it was a case of getting as many people into education, and then keeping them there as long as possible. Conclusion The way schooling in Ireland was understood changed dramatically over the period between 1965 and the end of the 1980s. It is a period of time where there is so much to discuss and it is hard to limit to speaking about just a few things. I felt that the most significant changes took place in the late 60’s, early, 70’s.
I feel these were the most significant because these changes paved the way for changes that were to follow. The change in peoples understanding of the importance of education in turn led to an increased demand for education. Government understanding of the importance of education for the future economy combined with the growing demand for fairer access to education led to the hugely significant announcement of free education and free travel. At this point it was about getting the most amount of people into post-primary education as possible, but it wasn’t long before we began to realise that the quality of education needed to be looked at.
The quality of teaching and the quality of what was being taught was looked at. Curriculum and examinations were investigated and changed. Real issues were now being addressed, such as third level requirements. Technical Institutes and courses were built and provided regionally. What made all of the changes so significant for me was the fact that for so long very little had been done in this field. The period between 1965 and the 1980s was a period where both the general public and government, began to see the importance of quality education, accessible to all, and its importance in the development of both the individual and the country.
The developments of this period were a major stepping stone to where we are today. References Walt Rostow, “The Stages of Economic Growth”, 1959. (Available Online at) http://www. nvcc. edu/home/nvfordc/econdev/introduction/stages. html Irish Educational Documents, Volume 2 Aine Hyland, Kenneth Milne (Online Version found here) http://books. google. ie/books? id=8yNl5UCocFIC&pg=PA268&dq=1970+The+community+schools+proposal+ireland&hl=en&sa=X&ei=2H4ET6qMEYLLhAe-6pi-AQ&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=1970%20The%20community%20schools%20proposal%20ireland&f=false Articles from above Book;
Investment in Education, inaugural speech, October 1962 Page 29-32 Third Programme for Economic and Social Development, 1969-1972, Post Primary, 14. Page 43 Whitepaper on Educational Development 1980, foreword Page 52 Ar ndaltai uile- All Our Children 1969 Page 45-47 Bibliography Irish Education Policy, Process and Substance, D. G. Mulcahy & Denis O’Sullivan Cultural Politics and Irish Education since the 1950s, Policy, Paradigms and Power, Denis O Sullivan Post-Primary School Education in Ireland 1957-1970 Sister Eileen Randles, Veritas Publicans 1975 The Politics of Irish Education 1920-65 Sean Farren.
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