Bilingual Education in Pre-Independent Irish-Speaking Ireland, 1800-1922: A History

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In recent years, there has been a great interest worldwide in the development of bilingual education policies, as well as interest in associated research and innovations reported in the academic literature. Yet, bilingual education is not a recent phenomenon. Rather, it has a rich and diverse history. This book is offered as a contribution to a small but growing corpus of studies in the field. It is an historical account of the Bilingual Program of Instruction introduced in selected primary schools in Irish-speaking districts in Ireland between 1904 and 1922. The general historical context is outlined, and the nature of the Program, the extent to which it was disseminated, and the inadequacies of teacher training for its implementation are considered. Teacher development of bilingual methods is also examined. This is followed by an exposition on the broad pattern of responses to the Bilingual Program in the various Irish-speaking districts around the country, and an overview of developments leading up to the phasing out of the Program shortly after the establishment of the Irish free state in 1922. The book concludes with an overview of the major milestones in language education policy in Ireland in the post-independence years.


“Ireland’s population has, for a considerable period, scattered itself over much of the world. Professor O’Donoghue’s study of bilingual education in Ireland between 1904 and 1922 is an important scholarly work. It examines the ideologies that accompanied the repressive programmes of British imperialism, which were inflicted on the Irish people and their institutions. His study vividly shows how educational changes have profound social, political and cultural effects ... Professor O’Donoghue’s work is a meticulous and scholarly analysis. He provides detailed analysis in both Irish and English of the people involved in the programme and the historical contexts that embedded the Programme. Chief among the strengths of the work is the deep insights into a language which, for all intents and purposes, could have been seen as obsolete but which fought on bravely for survival ...” – (from the Preface) Professor Anthony Potts, La Trobe University

“ ... Scholarly and well-crafted, this book fills a hiatus in current historiography as well as contributing to the discussion on the principles for curriculum development and innovation. Written in a clear and accessible style, it is attractive to a wide range of readership ... This analysis of the bilingual program of 1904 identifies the multifarious factors that encourage and/or challenge reformers, and gives credence to the argument that study of former curriculum innovations and practices can remind us that change may be achieved where motivation and determination prevail.” – Dr. Teresa O’Doherty, Mary Immaculate College

“This book recommends itself on a number of levels. While ostensibly a work of educational history, the study draws upon political, social and cultural history, coupling this with analysis of the theory of language acquisition and curriculum development. In this, the work is wide-ranging and detailed. There is no other comparable study of the Bilingual Programme of Instruction of 1904-22, upon which this book is largely centered ... This study is a most valuable and, given the continued contemporary debate about the merits of compulsory Irish in schools in Ireland, a most timely contribution to the discourse.” – Dr. Brendan Walsh, National University of Ireland

Table of Contents

Preface by Anthony Potts
1. Introduction
2. Historical Context
3. The Origins of the Bilingual Programme
4. The Nature and Dissemination of the Bilingual and Training of Teachers
5. The Development of Bilingual Teaching Methods by the Teachers in the Bilingual Schools
6. Response to the Bilingual Programme in the Irish-Speaking Districts
7. The Demise of the Bilingual Programme
8. Conclusion
Appendices 1, 2, 3

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