Irish Journal of Education, Vol. 44, 2021

Educational Inequality in Primary Schools in Ireland in the Early Years of the National Literacy and Numeracy Strategy: An Analysis of National Assessment Data

Anastasios Karakolidis, Alice Duggan, Gerry Shiel and Joanne Kiniry

Drawing on data from the National Assessments of Mathematics and English Reading (NAMER) 2009 and 2014, the current study compares inequalities in reading and mathematics achievement that may be attributed to demographic and socioeconomic characteristics, before and after the initial implementation of the National Literacy and Numeracy Strategy 2011-2020. The results indicate that the improvements in overall pupil performance, observed following the initial implementation of the Strategy, were accompanied by reduced inequalities. While all examined groups of pupils saw improvements in both reading and mathematics over time, the improvements particularly favoured groups of pupils who had lower performance than their counterparts in 2009, leading to smaller performance gaps in 2014. The findings are complemented by the results of multilevel analysis which showed a significant reduction in the variance in pupil performance attributable to between-school differences, as well as to selected demographic and socioeconomic factors, after the introduction of the Strategy. The implications of these and other findings are discussed. [DOWNLOAD PDF]


Relationship Between Learning Motivation and Learner Autonomy Among Chinese English Language University Students

Ruth Wong and Yuan Luo

English language teaching in China has recently undergone significant development from a traditional teacher-centred approach to one that is more student-centred. How to develop students’ motivation and cultivate their awareness of autonomous learning have become important questions for educators. This study aimed to explore the relationship between motivation to learn English and learner autonomy, drawing on culture-relevant theoretical frameworks and using questionnaire data obtained from 201 undergraduate students learning English as a foreign language in two universities in China. Results indicate a significant positive correlation between learner autonomy and motivation to learn English (r=.51; p<.01). Significant positive correlations between dimensions of motivation and learner autonomy were also found (.4 < r < .6). Implications of the findings for English language teaching and learning are discussed. [DOWNLOAD PDF]


Students’ Access to Technology, Attitudes to ICT, and Their Performance on PISA 2015 Science in Ireland

Sarah McAteer, Lynsey O’Keefe, Caroline McKeown, Gerry Shiel and Jude Cosgrove

This paper examines relationships between several aspects of ICT (availability, use and attitudes) and students’ science achievement in PISA 2015. Results are examined for Ireland, comparison countries and on average across OECD countries. Compared to their peers in other OECD countries, students in Ireland reported lower availability of ICT at school, and were less likely to use ICT in school and at home for schoolwork but also showed greater interest in ICT and higher perceived ICT autonomy and competence. Perceived ICT autonomy and competence had significant positive correlations with science performance. Hierarchical linear models indicated a negative relationship between science performance and general ICT use at school level, and between performance and availability of ICT at student level. The findings are examined with reference to lower-than-expected performance in Ireland on PISA 2015 science. The need to further embed digital technologies into teaching, learning and assessment is considered. [DOWNLOAD PDF]


High achievement in mathematics and science: A chronology of relevant educational policy and findings from large-scale assessments in Ireland, 1995 to the present day

Vasiliki Pitsia & Zita Lysaght

Save for the 2009 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) shock, Ireland has recorded strong average scores in mathematics, science, and reading on national and international large-scale assessments. Despite this, percentages of high achievers in mathematics and science in these assessments have remained stubbornly lower than those of some countries with average performance similar to that of Ireland. Reflecting the multifaceted benefits to individuals and society of knowledge and skills in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), increasing prioritisation in educational policy in Ireland of high achievers in mathematics and science over the past decade in particular is not unexpected, albeit this was not always the case. This paper offers a chronology of Irish educational policy documents since 1995 illuminating why, when, and how high achievement in mathematics and science has emerged as a key component and driver of educational policy reform. [DOWNLOAD PDF]


The Leaving Certificate Examination – A Target for Unfair Criticism?

Patricia McGrath

The Irish Leaving Certificate Examination is subject to ongoing scrutiny.  Recent criticisms are that there is too much emphasis on rote learning or lower-order questions; an over-reliance on final examinations leading to increased stress for final-year students; and inadequate preparation for life after school.  The extent to which the criticisms are justified is explored in this paper drawing on various data sources. Using Bloom’s (revised) taxonomy of educational objectives, Leaving Certificate higher-level papers in 2018 were analysed in nine subjects.  Results showed that examination papers in the selected subjects do not consist mainly of lower-order questions, whilst a review of all higher-level examination subjects indicated that the extent to which students must rely on marks awarded in the final examination varies, depending on subject choice. Following a review of research, evidence is presented that stress associated with the Leaving Certificate Examination is an ongoing issue for students and also that some dissatisfaction exists among students in their transition to further study and/or life after school. The need for more timely and appropriate guidance is indicated along with the promotion of career pathways that include, but are not limited to, the traditional third-level routes. [DOWNLOAD PDF]