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Ministers of Irish Education Essay

1. Since the foundation of the Irish Free State (1922) to the present day there have been 37 different ministers for education. Identify at least 4 of those ministers for education which you consider most significant. Critically evaluate the contribution they played in reforming the Irish Education Landscape. (50Marks) Today I will looked at 4 Irish Ministers of Education; John O’Sulllivan, Thomas Derrig, Donagh O’Malley and Ruairi Quinn and portray how I believe they contributed (and are contributing) hugely to the reform the Irish Education Landscape: 1. John M. O’Sullivan (Jan. 1926 – Mar.

1932) O’Sullivan was appointed to the Cabinet in 1926, serving under W. T. Cosgrave as Minister for Education. In 1926 a report from the Second National Programme Conference was presented to him as the Minister for Education. He accepted all proposals stated in the report to be recommended as a national curriculum. In 1926, he made Irish obligatory for registration as a Secondary School teacher & for ‘recognised’ (funded) schools. In 1926 under O’Sullivan, the School Attendance Act came into existence. It made it obligatory for all children between the age of 6 and 14 would attend school.

O’Sullivan is also responsible for: Establishing the Commission on Technical Education in 1927 Setting up the Preparatory Colleges to train primary teachers in 1927 Introducing the Primary Certificate in 1929 As it became clear that many could not access suitable second level education discussions began on creating a continuation course to provide general education in a vocational style. The Vocational Education Act, 1930 was implemented by O’Sullivan. It reformed the technical education branch of the Department of Education and local Technical Education Boards.

It introduced vocational schools, a new type of school with a greater emphasis on trade and commerce in courses. These courses were broken into continuation courses and traditional technical education courses. There were those who considered the system revolutionary and there were warnings of danger to faith and morals which could arise in the new multi denominational and co-educational schools to be provided. This was the state’s first attempt to take an active hand in establishing schools outside the power of the Roman Catholic Church.

The Vocational Education Act was thee major ministerial achievement of the Minister. The act provided an avenue for a new approach to post primary education and to the introduction of the concept of education as a lifelong process. Here then was a new system which set out to educate through the medium of subjects themselves directly related to the world of work. It was not easily accepted. Education was regarded as the pursuit of abstract learning and the status of the educated person was almost in direct ratio to his/her inability to work with his/her hands.

Even in today’s society, there is a still some stigmatism attached to attending a VEC school. However in reality such schools contribute so much to today’s society and as such Today we have 213 VEC second level schools and many further education, youthreach, traveller and prison education centres – a testament to O’Sullivan’s rein. 2. Thomas Derrig (Mar. 1932 – Sep. 1939) At the June 1927 general election he was elected to Dail Eireann as a Fianna Fail TD for Carlow–Kilkenny. In Eamon de Valera’s first government in 1932 Derrig was appointed Minister for Education.

Derrig has been influential in cultivating of our education system – but not in a positive way: Derrig initiated a review of industrial and reformatory schools and the rules under the Children Act 1908, resulting in the critical 1936 Cussen Report, which he shelved. His lack of action was noted in 2009 when the Ryan Report examined the subsequent management of these “residential institutions”; Derrig was the first minister to seek a report that could have resulted in much-needed reforms. A call for public inquiry into industrial schools was rejected by Minister of Education. Thomas Derrig because “it would serve no useful purpose”.

It has been suggested that he did not want to follow British law reforms in the 1920s and 1930s because of his strong anti-British views, and that Irish children had suffered needlessly as a result. Under Derrig’s rein, he not only effect teacher salaries, but also banned married female teachers from working. According to Diarmaid Ferriter (2004) in his book The Transformation of Ireland 1900 – 2000, the marriage ban imposed on female primary teachers from 1934 to 1958 seemed to attract little public comment, despite the fact that many untrained single teachers were replacing trained married female teachers.

The INTO was not vocal in objecting on the basis of gender equality, and whatever opposition existed in the union was overshadowed by its campaigns on wage levels. This was a sign of the times in my opinion, where women had very little power or voice. It is probably only in the past few decades that this move to ban female teachers has really been viewed as scandalous and backwards. While the rest of Europe moved forward with education reform after World War Two, Derrig resisted such reviews. Derrig’s narrow mindedness cost us – academically and for so many young innocent children –physically and emotionally.

3. Donogh O’Malley (July 1966 – Mar. 1968) Following Fianna Fail’s return to government following the 1965 general election O’Malley joined the cabinet as Minister for Health. He spent just over one year in this position before he was appointed Minister for Education, a position where he will be forever remembered for his dynamism as a minister. Having succeeded another dynamic young minister, Patrick Hillary, O’Malley acted swiftly to introduce the recommendations that were made in an official report regarding education.

Shortly after he was appointed he announced that from 1969 all schools up to Intermediate Certificate level would be free and that free buses would bring students from rural area to the nearest school. O’Malley seems to have made this decision himself without consulting other ministers, however, he did discuss it with Lemass. Jack Lynch, who as Minister for Finance had to find the money to pay for it, was certainly not consulted and was dismayed at the announcement. In spite of this O’Malley’s proposals were hugely popular with the public and it was impossible for the government to go back on its word.

As minister O’Malley also extended the school transport scheme and commissioned the building of new non-denominational comprehensive and community schools in areas where they were lacking. He also introduced Regional Technical Colleges (RTCs), now called Institutes of Technology, in areas where there was no third level college in proximity. The best example of this successful policy is Limerick, now a university, where O’Malley is credited with taking the steps to ensure the university came into existence.

His plan to merge Trinity College, Dublin and University College Dublin aroused huge controversy and was not successful, despite being supported by his cabinet colleague Brian Lenihan. Access to third level education was also extended as the old scholarship system was replaced by a system of means-tested grants which gave easier access to less well-off students. Because of O’Malley, the working class and middle class of Ireland are far better. Four decades on from the 1960s and we have a 4 fold increase in retention rates, with 82% retention of students to Leaving Cert.

However I argue the validity of the grants system that he hoped put in place. As Niamh Bhreathnach commented in the Irish Independent in September 2002, O’Malley would be turning in his grave if he knew how the grants system was been exploited at that time. As the students of Ireland fight to hold onto the grants system as we know it, I personally feel it’s a pity that O’Malley didn’t introduce a student loan system like England’s system. It certainly would cost the Irish Taxpayer less. 4. Ruairi Quinn (2011 – Present) Whilst still in office, I believe that R.

Quinn has and will continue to significantly contribute in the reforming the Irish Education Landscape. Within one year, Ruairi Quinn has shown how an energetic Minister can drive the education agenda and push for change. In April 2012 the report on The Forum on Patronage and Pluralism was published. In the Primary Sector, The fact that 96% of primary schools in Ireland are under denominational patronage is unique among developed countries. The group has advised that the first phase in divesting schools should involve 258 schools in 18 dioceses across 47 areas.

How the Minister will carry out this task remains to be seen. However he is determined to carry this out and I believe as such it will be one of the most significant changes in our educational landscape since O’Malley’s introduction of free schooling. The 8 subject Junior Certificate currently being introduced by Quinn will change the landscape of learning for our students. I hope that with this introduction, I can as a teacher continue to use active learning activities in the classroom and concentrate on lifelong learning rather than the system of rote learning that exists at the minute.

The minister also announced in May 2012 that Chinese will become a subject in the Leaving Certificate and he also announced an optional short course on Chinese language and culture which will be made available as part of the new Junior Cert cycle programme from 2014. As Quinn’s ministry continues to push on with the ideology of a 2 year teaching course, I am glad I am completing this course in 2012 and not in 2014. While I understand the ideology of this move, I do not believe it will improve teaching standards in Ireland.

I believe that scholar students (regardless of their vocation) will look at the time it takes to become a teacher and the monetary rewards of it (which unfortunately is on the decrease) and the fact they could have for instance a medical degree in the same amount of time with brighter economic aspirations. It is my sincere hope that such visions do not come through. Today I have looked at 4 Irish Ministers of Education; John O’Sulllivan, Thomas Derrig, Donagh O’Malley and Ruairi Quinn and I truly believe they contributed (and are contributing) hugely to the reform the Irish Education Landscape.


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