Redresssing the balance
Ireland is an integral part of the cultural and historical experience of 'these islands' and its study helps to redress the often Anglo-centric tendencies of the curriculum in Britain.
‘Ireland was the only part of the islands of Britain and Ireland
which attracted negative comment.
Pupils’ perceptions of Ireland were particularly influenced by
media images and events of the past thirty years rather than by learning in school.
Furthermore, the pupils were prepared to construct negative or stereotyped impressions
of Ireland rather than England when confronted with unfamiliar images or references.’
Survey of Year 7 attitudes & stereotypes in a large English urban school
Richness & diversity
However, it is the richness and diversity of its past and present and the inter-dependence of different disciplines that help to explain the success of the Ireland in Schools programme: why Ireland makes learning fun and challenging while delivering key curriculum initiatives.
‘In Ireland, art, drama, geography, history, literature, music and religion are intertwined
and almost insensibly enrich and reinforce the learning experience of children.’
|English & literacy|
Irish drama and poetry have long graced the curriculum in schools in Britain. Now, however, new Irish writers are producing a wide range of high-quality fiction for children and young adults - myths & legends, historical novels, fantasy and contemporary realism.
There are books and stories to suit all ages and abilities, allowing all to participate in a common project. All can enjoy reading books which are suited to their individual interests and abilities.
|History & citizenship|
Irish dimensions and the tangled web of Anglo-Irish relations pose ‘big questions’ of interpretation, change and continuity, and cause and effect, which have no easy answers. The richness and diversity of the source material make finding the answers fun as well as challenging.
Such ‘big questions’ - e.g., the Irish Famine - also bring into sharp focus issues of personal development and citizenship, while the inter-linking of literature and history helps to develop affective learning skills, enabling students to appreciate the experiences of individuals in the past.
Ireland’s cross-curricular possibilities are being exploited in primary schools. Topics such as St Brendan the Navigator, Grace O’Malley (the Pirate Queen) and the Irish Famine, can begin in the Literacy Hour and extend to all subjects, particularly Art, Dance, Drama, Geography, History and Music.
In secondary schools such cross-curricular re-inforcement is only just being acknowledged. For example, students’ appreciation of the nature of conflict in Northern Ireland is deepened by reference to the art, music, poetry and theology of ‘the troubles’.