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The Road to Democracy in Irish Primary School Education

Ryan, Aine (2014) The Road to Democracy in Irish Primary School Education. EdD thesis, University of Sheffield.

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Abstract

This thesis explores the extent to which democratic values and ideals have informed Irish primary school education since independence in 1922. The examination reveals how undemocratic structures, principles and practices have been maintained in primary education by denying equality and freedom of conscience to those not of the majority Catholic faith. It describes how the unique predicament of religious hegemony has persisted because of legislative machinery which, by guaranteeing protection of religious ethos, allows discrimination in enrolment policies, employment practices of primary school teachers, indoctrination across the curriculum and religious control of all teacher training colleges. The social, cultural and political factors which have produced this anomaly of a democratic State having an undemocratic education system are examined, as well as why this situation persists. The possibility for evolution of the democratic discourse within education as well as the forces currently obstructing change is also considered. The arguments presented emerge from a critical policy analysis which draws on democratic theories. In particular, a historical account of Irish primary education is outlined which is informed by Dewey’s philosophy of education, theories referencing participatory democracy and those contemporary sociological concepts which emphasise the role of education in the process of social reproduction and transformation. Gramsci’s ideas on hegemony are applied to analyse the power structures controlling education and theories of selective knowledge, as propounded by Williams and Apple, are applied to the Irish context to highlight the political nature of the curriculum and how it is manipulated to exercise power. Contemporary schooling as a site of conflict and contest is analysed in the light of the potential of counter-hegemonic groups to challenge existing patterns and tradition. The main findings are that the grip which hegemonic forces have had on Irish society has produced a conservative culture contributing to a democratic deficit in terms of social reform and civic participation. Although the Irish social order has changed significantly there is still a mismatch between society’s expectations and the ideology and practice which defines primary schooling today. Education is not keeping pace with the requirements of contemporary Irish culture.

Item Type: Thesis (EdD)
Academic Units: The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Social Sciences (Sheffield) > School of Education (Sheffield)
The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Social Sciences (Sheffield)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.634334
Depositing User: MS Aine Ryan
Date Deposited: 23 Jan 2015 11:42
Last Modified: 03 Oct 2016 12:09
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/7777

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