IOE - Faculty of Education and Society


Informing Ireland's future primary curriculum

A comparative research study analysed national curricula. This led to consulting on Ireland's primary curriculum with the potential to improve the life chances of millions of children.

Assortment of coats in a primary school corridor. Image: Phil Meech for UCL Institute of Education

There's much discussion around the curriculum and the approaches that work best. These approaches can be knowledge-based, skills-oriented or learner-centred. The latter includes whole-person development and lifelong learning.  

Ireland's National Council for Curriculum and Assessment approached the IOE as part of its review of the country's curriculum. The Council wanted to explore the role of knowledge in existing curricula.

Professor Dominic Wyse and Dr Yana Manyukhina of the IOE's Department of Learning and Leadership conducted the study. Their brief was to research curricula for jurisdictions with English as one of the predominant languages, high levels of ethnic diversity and high PISA scores. PISA is the OECD's Programme for International Student Assessment. PISA measures 15-year-olds' ability to use their reading, mathematics and science knowledge and skills to meet real-life challenges. They chose to examine the curricula from England, Hong Kong, Australia and Canada.

Their findings showed scope for a learner-centred curriculum. They also called for a balance between disciplinary knowledge specified in the curriculum and non-specific subject knowledge.

The study resulted in a published report, conference presentation, blog post and peer-reviewed academic paper. The IOE has continued to work with the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment. Advising on Ireland's prospective primary curriculum, the team is excited to positively impact children's learning in Ireland in order to increase their life chances.

The research has also led to another project examining the effect of the national curriculum on agency. Agency is the ability to act independently and make choices, which is key to children's development.

Image: Phil Meech for UCL