Constitutional & Legal Foundations
The fundamental rights of citizens to an education are among the rights guaranteed in Article 42 of the 1937 constitution of Ireland. The constitution was largely prepared by New York-born Eamond deValera (1882-1975), Ireland's most visible leader following the granting of independence from Britain, and the country's two-time president. The constitution acknowledges the responsibility of the nation to work with parents to entitle children to receive an education without cost to the family.
There also have been a number of important statutes directly concerning education. For example, the Medical Act of 1886 was concerned with ensuring the quality education of doctors; the law stated that graduates had to be educated in surgery, medicine, and obstetrics. The education of girls was done sporadically until 1892, when a law mandating compulsory attendance was passed. At the time, it only assured students of a primary school education and little more. In 1972, the law was changed regarding compulsory education, raising the age of required education to 15 years old.
The Vocational Education Act of 1930 established Vocational Education Committees (VEC) throughout Ireland. Such committees oversaw what then was defined as "technical and continuation education." Today, about 10 percent of costs pertaining to this area of education is VEC funded, while the Department of Education foots 90 percent of the costs.
Also related to education are the provisions of the Dublin Institute of Technology Act, 1992, and section 9 of the Universities Bill, 1997, that formalized by statute whether a new school of higher learning should be granted a charter or not.
If there is a deficiency in Irish education, it has been the lack of a guiding educational philosophy. However, the new curriculum that became effective around the turn of the twenty-first century may be a step in that direction. Child-centered learning is the goal, along with developing skills in all subjects, particularly science and instructional technology, while also concentrating on training students in the traditional basic subjects.
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