In my mid-December blog on the new Junior Cycle I stated that the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) was a 'wonderful new organisation grown out of the Department of Education and Skills'. All true but in fact the NCCA was set up in 1984 (not recently) initially known as the Curriculum and Examinations Board (CEB) and has been the driver of educational reform at Primary and Second Level since then.
The first Chairperson of the CEB in 1984 appointed by Minister Gemma Hussey was Dr Edward Walsh then President of NIHE Limerick. The Board of the CEB was representative of parents, teachers, IBEC and school managers.
Its first Chief Executive was Albert O'Ceallaigh and Assistant CE was Gary Granville (now Head of Education at National College of Art and Design). Both inspired choices obviously especially Granville who taught Art in Dublin schools and worked in the Curriculum Development Unit (CDU) established to support teachers by CDVEC, TCD and Dept of Education.
When the new National Council for Curriculum and Assessment was launched by Minister Mary O'Rourke in 1987 its first task was to transform what was then the Intermediate Certificate into the Junior Certificate with new and revised syllabuses and at two levels for differing abilities. The new Junior Certificate was launched in 1988 and all students sat the new exam for the first time in 1992.
The Minister also charged the NCCA to oversee the completion of the review of the primary school curriculum which was published in 1999. This curriculum, which contained an infant curriculum for children aged 4 to 6, was based on the latest thinking and research on how children learn and how that learning can be supported optimally for each child through skilled, sensitive and informed involvement by the teacher. This document formed part of the National Children's Strategy: 'Our Children - Their Lives' launched in 2000 by the National Children's Office.
|Courtesy of www.course4u.ie|
The NCCA became a statutory body in 2001 under Minister for Education and Science Michael Woods with more widespread educational and industrial representation on its Board. A new Chief Executive Anne Looney formerly a full time education officer in NCCA took over from Albert O'Ceallaigh.
In 2003, another review commenced of Primary Education which led to 'Towards a New Framework for Early Learning' published in 2004. This looked for the first time at learning from birth to 6 years of age. This led to 'Aistear: the Early Childhood Curriculum Framework' which deals with the pre-school period from birth to 6 years. The word Aistear is the Irish for 'journey' and was chosen because early childhood marks the beginning of children's lifelong learning journeys.
|Courtesy of www.education.ie|
In 2005 NCCA addressed making the senior cycle more understandable to parents with a new DVD and other aids. In 2006, the challenge of multi-racialism was addressed as were new Guidelines for Exceptionally Able Students. In 2006 Professor Tom Collins Professor of Education in Maynooth College became NCCA Chairman and is currently in that position as is Anne Looney as CEO.
That brings us to 2008/2009 with the emphasis and leadership on the new Project Maths syllabus with which many engineers are familiar. This new more practical approach to Maths is best illustrated through practical problem solving in the engineering world.
Beginning on a phased basis in September 2014, the new Junior Cycle will feature revised subjects and short courses its main a focus is on literacy, numeracy and key skills together new approaches of assessment and reporting. Schools will have more freedom to design junior cycle programmes that meet the learning needs of all students. For students, the new Junior Cycle will mean that the curriculum available in their schools will be a mix of core subjects and short courses in topics like Art Computing and Chinese.
|Courtesy of 123rf.com|
The new Junior Certificate will be known as the Junior Cycle Student Award (JCSA).
All in all, when you look back on the many positive achievements, the students, teachers, parents and all stakeholders in the Irish education system have a lot to be grateful to the NCCA who have transformed and are still transforming pre-school, primary and secondary level education in this country.