HISTORY should remain a core subject for Junior Cycle students in schools, according to the chairperson of the Cork History Teachers Association.
The decision to allow schools to remove history as a core subject means that just three subjects — Irish, English and maths — will be mandatory core subjects from this September onwards.
“History is an incredibly important subject and should be an anchor subject in Junior Cycle reform,” said Christian O’Connor, history teacher in St Mary’s, Mallow.
“Ireland has a rich past and it is the right of each citizen to learn our national story.
“It’s also an evidential base from which we can study other cultures and nationalities, combatting discrimination,” he added.
“It also teaches us to learn from the mistakes of our past, highlighting issues with regard to fascism, communism, racism and war.”
The Statements of Learning, set out in the Framework for Junior Cycle, must be adhered to by all schools under its remit.
One of these states that students “value local, national and international heritage, understands the importance of the relationship between past and current events and the forces that drive change within our society.”
While this ensures that history must remain on the syllabus, according to Mr O’Connor, he worries that it will lead to a diluted form of the subject.
“The statements of learning ensure it must be taught in some form, but my concern is that there will be an option to drop the subject after first year or to only teach it as a short course, only a part of the syllabus” said Mr O’Connor.
“Both of these options would be insufficient to appreciate the full importance of the subject’s message and impact on who we are.
“History needs to be a compulsory, full-time subject for Junior Cycle students,” he added.
The Framework for Junior Cycle sets out that a minimum of 300 hours is allocated to the teaching of ‘Wellbeing’, a new subject which encompasses Social, personal and health education (SPHE), Civic Social and Political Education (CSPE) and Physical Education.
This came into effect in the curriculum back in 2017.
Meanwhile, the Framework sets out that English, Irish and Mathematics will each require 240 hours.
While Mr O’Connor said he is in favour of Wellbeing, he said the time allocated to it could lead to subjects such as French, German and history, becoming marginalised.
“Allocating that amount of time to Wellbeing has led to a squeeze in the hours available to other subjects and will lead to further timetabling issues,” he said.
“It also means that, although we have politicians saying that only Irish, Maths and English, are core subjects, SPHE, CSPE and PE are effectively core subjects or an ‘area of learning’.
“While I understand the importance of Wellbeing and support it being taught, it’s important that other important subjects are not pushed to the side, left behind and forgotten,” he added.
“The allocation of those hours is almost coercing schools to make history an optional subject as principals wonder where they’re going to pull 300 hours from.”