Growing apart or Coming together? Deconstructing Education Policy and Practice on the island of Ireland

Stephen Roulston, Martin Brown, Sammy Taggart, EEMER EIVERS

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review


The island of Ireland has been divided for the last century by an international border, now a border between the European Union and the United Kingdom. While both Northern Ireland, part of the United Kingdom, and the Republic of Ireland have similar challenges and opportunities in their education systems, with evidence that each jurisdiction has learned from the other, the systems that form the basis for this paper have evolved differently during the last century.
Since partition, the two education systems have diverged significantly, and it is those differences and the impact and effectiveness of school-level education in both jurisdictions that form the focus of this paper. With post-Brexit pressures on the political union within the United Kingdom and increased fervour in discussions around trading border locations and constitutional positions, it is timely to examine the challenges, and opportunities, should the two systems converge once again. The paper begins with an overview of the evolution of education in both jurisdictions, which is followed by a comparative analysis of the commonalities and differences as they relate to scale and cost of education, large-scale assessments of achievement, mechanisms that have been put in place to target disadvantage and curriculum and assessment.
Findings derived from this research suggest that there are disparities in school structures, in teacher pay, in school governance, and in assessment, for example. However, the basics of education – preparing children and young people for a changing and uncertain world – appear to be more in alignment, particularly evident in the parallels between the Junior Certificate in the Republic of Ireland and the Revised Curriculum in Northern Ireland.
In conclusion, it is salutary to note that the implementation of the Revised Curriculum in NI took over a decade and the debate over the Leaving Certificate has been going on for even longer than that in Ireland without any sign of resolution, and yet both of those changes are comparatively minor compared to the re-alignment of two systems. There are certainly advantages to be gained in each education structure adopting successful approaches used in the other, but the perceived threat to some communities on either side of the border in doing that may militate against the potential benefits that might accrue in a closer alignment.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEducation, Change and Democratic Societies: New imperatives and creative responses
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 31 Mar 2023
EventProceedings of the Educational Studies Association of Ireland (ESAI) - Galway: University College
Duration: 1 Jan 1976 → …


ConferenceProceedings of the Educational Studies Association of Ireland (ESAI)
Period1/01/76 → …


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