Curriculum and Examinations Board
Submission to the Joint Committee on Co-operation with Developing Countries.
8 October, 1986.
1. The Curriculum and Examinations Board
The Curriculum and Examinations Board was established in 1984 by the then Minister for Education, Gemma Hussey, TD as a response to the widely held view that major changes were needed in curricula and assessment procedures.
As yet the Board has interim status. Legislation is expected to be passed during the coming Dail session making it statutory.
The Interim Board’s terms of reference span primary and second level education. They include a review of curricula and modes of assessment at both these levels, and highlight certain areas which require particular attention. Although the Interim Board does not have responsibility for public examinations, the Statutory Board will.
Within these terms of reference, the Board has undertaken an extensive review of curricula at Primary, Junior Cycle Post-Primary and Senior Cycle levels, and of the assessment procedures involved. It has recommended areas which need change and development and new structures of curriculum and assessment which will in essence, make education more relevant to the needs of all students in the system.
In the course of its work, the Board uses a broad-based consultative process, which widens the decision-making to include a wide range of interests and expertise.
In March 1986, the Board presented its report and policy recommendations. In Our Schools: a framework for curriculum and assessment to the Minister for Education.
One significant recent development has been the transfer of the responsibility for syllabus design from the Department of Education to the Board.
2. Development Education in the Curriculum
In the course of its review of the curriculum, the Board has identified a number of new areas of interest and concern, which, although in some cases not explicitly referred to in “official” syllabi, are increasingly being included in school curricula either in special subjects, aspects of existing subjects or as topics which link a number of subjects.
Development education is seen as one such area. The Board recognises its vital importance as part of the education of any young person as a world citizen. On the whole, however, it agrees with the view that development education should not be seen as a separate “subject”, but rather as an important aspect or perspective of existing subject disciplines. Certain subjects of course will be more conducive to the exploration of development issues than others, but nevertheless, the encouragement of global-perspectives, developmental approaches and human rights related attitudes is seen as relevant right across the curriculum.
3. Primary Curriculum
In its discussion paper on Primary Education, the Board recognises the work and research undertaken by teachers, and other bodies relating to development education in the Primary Curriculum.
The report sees the area of Social and Environmental Studies as the major (although not the only) vehicle for development education where an integrated approach allows for the exploration of a variety of themes. A pupil’s social and political education, it recommends, should have its base in the primary curriculum.
Post-Primary: Junior Cycle
The Junior Cycle Post-Primary Curriculum is an area of high priority in the current work of the Board. It recognises eight “areas of experience” as making up the Junior Cycle Curriculum. One of these areas - Social, Political and Environmental Education - was the subject of a recent Board of Studies report. This report identified a number of areas which belonged to the board area of experience - development education features among these.
Part of the outcome of this Board’s report, is the setting up of a Course Committee to investigate the establishment of and develop the syllabus for a new Junior Cycle subject - Civic and Political Studies - to be taken by all students. This subject will explore contemporary social and political issues at local, national and global levels. It will be designed in such a way that there will be enough flexibility for teachers, schools and networks also to pursue their own areas of interest. Thus both within the core part of the subject and its potential extensions, opportunity for the exploration of development issues will be afforded.
A recent memo from the Minister for Education, Patrick Cooney, TD, welcomed the establishment of Civic and Political Studies as a new Junior Cycle subject and lauded the aims set out for its development. He also requested the Board to look into the possibility of introducing an equivalent programme in Senior Cycle.
As yet, course committees have not been set up for the other constituent subject of Social, Political and Environmental Education. It is envisaged that when this happens, areas on interrelatedness and overlap (among which development education will undoubtedly also feature) will be explored.
Post-Primary: Senior Cycle
At present, three main types of programme exist at Senior Cycle - the Leaving Certificate programme, Transition Year Option (TYO) and Vocational Preparation and Training Courses (VPT). (Some other programmes or courses are also offered on a more limited or pilot basis). As at Junior Cycle, the official syllabi for Leaving Certificate do allow opportunities for development education, albeit implicity rather than explicitly. Syllabi for Geography and Economics, however, both specify development issues among their topics.
The other two areas, TYO and VPT, are relatively open-ended in their content and encourage teachers, schools, and schools in consortia to develop their own programmes leaving wide scope for new courses in a wide variety of areas.
The Board plans to publish a consultative document on Senior Cycle policy later this year, and, based on that, will set up structures for curriculum review and developments within all programmes at senior cycle.
The Board’s immediate priorities at Senior Cycle level largely refer to TYO programmes, facilitating their development, helping to co-ordinate support for them and looking at the certification needs of schools. In relation to TYO, it proposes to publish a series of curriculum and assessment papers later this school year. Their purpose will be to suggest and explore teaching modules of relevance to TYO. These modules will concern a wide variety of areas, among which development education will be included. Links have already been established with agencies such as Trocaire and with the new Development Education Support Centre, (funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs) in relation to this.