Tuesday, 27 January 2004

Questions (453)

Arthur Morgan

Question:

568 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Education and Science what steps the Government has taken to ensure that the education system adequately educates pupils about the role of women in Irish history and in particular their role in the struggle for independence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2201/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Science)

At primary level, history is a subject within social, environmental and scientific education, one of seven curriculum areas. The curriculum provides a wide range of specific units that allow teachers flexibility to ensure that pupils have an understanding of the broad sweep of history. For fifth and sixth class, these units include "Changing roles of women in the 19th and 20th centuries" and "1916 and the foundation of the State". At post-primary level, junior cycle students focus on "the role of women" as a named element of their study of social change in 20th century Ireland. In addition, they are urged to study the events and movements of the period 1912-22, which should include key female participants. Junior certificate examination papers lend support to the position of women in Irish history through regular questions on, for example, the changing role of women and recently, questions on an account by Kathleen Clarke.

Within transition year there is substantial provision for the study of women's history. The transition year support service website contains modules on a number of early modern women's history topics. The gender equality unit of the Department of Education and Science has produced a superb resource for schools entitled "Discovering Women in Irish History". Apart from containing biographical material on modern Irish women such as Ann Devlin, Kate O'Callaghan and Jenny Wyse Power, this resource deals with women's movements such as the Ladies' Land League, Inghinidhe na hEireann, Unionist women and Cumann na mBan. The roles of women in the rise of Sinn Féin, the 1918 general election, Dáil Éireann, the Civil War and Northern Ireland are all charted. In addition, significant attention is given to women such as Hannah Sheehy Skeffington, Countess Markievicz, Maud Gonne and Lady Gregory. It is anticipated that this resource, on CD-ROM and in book form, will be in all second level schools before the start of the next academic year and will give renewed impetus to the study of Irish women's history in transition year and beyond.

At senior cycle, a revised leaving certificate syllabus for history will be implemented in schools in September 2004. The revised syllabus stipulates that, "attention should be given to the experiences of women." Each topic provides for the study of a number of key female personalities ranging from Grace O'Malley up to and including Mother Mary Aikenhead, Evie Hone, Bernadette Devlin and Mary Robinson. The prescribed roles of Hannah Sheehy Skeffington and Countess Markievicz are particularly relevant to the campaigns for social justice, gender equality and independence in the early 20th century context. A research topic is open to all students and this allows wide scope to those who wish to undertake research work on individual women, women's movements and related topics. In the light of this provision at primary and post-primary level, I am confident that the role of women in Irish history and in the Irish independence movement is well catered for in our schools.