I welcome the decision of Joe McHugh, the Minister for Education and Skills, to designate history as a core subject for the junior cycle. In the context of the Decade of Centenaries, it was perplexing that the NCCA (National Council for Curriculum and Assessment) would reduce history to the point where students may not study the subject after they enter post-primary school at the age of 12 or 13. We are commemorating events in Ireland, including the participation of Irish people in World War I, the Easter Rising, War of Independence and Civil War. These were complex events, and the causes and consequences are not simple. A knowledge of history is important for people to understand this complexity.
Minister McHugh announced on Monday morning that history would be given status beside Irish, English, Maths and Wellbeing, and would be studied by all students at junior cycle level. This would be implemented in September 2020. The decision was made despite a review from the NCCA recommending no change in the status of history as a subject at junior cycle.
The NCCA are concerned that giving history a status beside Irish, English and Maths would undermine reforms. I would be more concerned that students would leave post-primary school without any knowledge or understanding of our past. The events in Britain over the past three years has shown what a lack of historical knowledge can contribute to. In this age where many people get news and opinion from online sources, and where politicians make speeches that lack any historical perspective, it is important that young people are provided with the skills to differentiate fact from opinion. Minister McHugh deserves credit for taking this decision, even in the face of opposition from the NCCA.