The two Inter-party governments of 1948 – 51 and 1954 to 1957 Richard Mulcahy the leader of Fine Gael, the biggest party was Minister for Education although not Taoiseach for political reasons).

The Council of Education was established in 1950. It consisted primarily of professional educators. The Council examined the curriculum of primary and secondary schools and produced two reports.

A significant number of new Vocational Schools were provided through the 1950s, which went some way towards secondary level education. At this time over 80% of students should not progress beyond primary school,  leaving age of 14.

By the late 1950s education was promoted as an element of a country’s social and economic progress. A series of prominent ministries held the portfolio, including Jack Lynch, Paddy Hillary, George Colley, Donagh O’Malley and Brian Lenihan and Padraic Faulkner.

The economy grew and education was seen as a critical part of economic development. By the early 1960s,  50% of students progressed to second level either secondary or vocational education.

Investment in Education Report

The Investment in Education report 1962  was the result of a study under the auspices of an OECD program. It conducted an analysis of the existing system and identified faults, inequalities, and the inefficient use of resources. It highlighted the low rate of participation in post-primary education by students in lower socio-economic groups.

The Government’s announced policy was

  • promotion of equality of educational opportunity
  • extension of educational opportunity
  • establishment of regional technical colleges,
  • access to public examinations for vocational students.
  • creation by the State by the stage of comprehensive schools in remote areas.
  • promotion of higher technological education.
  • The school leaving age was not raised to 15.

OECD reports from 1965 and 66 revealed stark educational inequality. The response was the introduction of the famous free post-primary education and transport scheme in 1967 by Donagh O’Malley. The single measure has been seen as a turning point in the provision of Irish education.

Higher Education

Nine Regional Technical Colleges and two National Institutes of Higher Education were established. By late 1970, in conjunction with the Dublin Institute of Technology, a widespread technical education sector existed.

The Higher Educational Authority was established in 1968 with a coordination, financial and planning role in higher education. It exercised the funding role in relation to designated institutions.

The National Council for Education Awards was established in 1972.

Primary Schools 1970s

The primary certificate examination was the terminal examination from 1929 until 1967 when it was abolished.

A new national school curriculum was introduced in 1971 The current primary school curriculum 1999 was prepared by National Council for Curriculum and Assessment.

The professional training of national school teachers was extended to three years and linked to universities for the award of a degree.

At presently the primary school systems consist of

  • a majority of national schools under religious patronage.
  • approximately 10% of children in Gaelscoileanna.
  • multi-denominational schools under the patronage of Educate Together or other bodies
  • preparatory or independent fee-paying primary school.

Post-Primary 1970s-

In post-primary schools, a common syllabus was introduced. Modern languages, science and practical subjects were promoted.

Most students now attend second-level school and over 90% take the final exam the Leaving Cert. There are four principal types of second-level school

Voluntary secondary schools are owned or leased by religious communities or private organisations. The State fund 90% of salaries or 97% of other costs. 57% of secondary pupils attend same.

Vocational Schools are owned and managed by Vocational Education Committees, now Education and Training Board. 93% of the costs are met by the State. 28% of secondary pupils attend.

Comprehensive or community schools are usually amalgamations of voluntary and vocational schools. They are fully funded by the State and run by local boards of management. Nearly, 15% of secondary pupils attend these schools.

Gaelcholaisti cater for  3% of secondary students. They use the medium of  Irish.

The rules and programmes for secondary school by the Department of Educational Science sets minimum standards. Exams are overseen by the State Exam Commissions.

Third Level Development

Higher educational awards are conferred by 38 higher education institutions. They include various Universities, Institute of Technology.

Some colleges are constituent elements of the universities. Others are designated by the Higher Education and Training Awards Council,.

There are also a number of Colleges for Further Education and Independent Colleges. Some colleges have delegated authorities from the  Higher Education and Training Awards Council, which allows them to make their own awards in their own name.


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