Current Volume (Vol. 45, 2022)

Responding to Educational Disadvantage in Ireland: A Review of Literature, 1965–2020

Kathleen Carroll

The term educational disadvantage represents a circumstance where some persons benefit less than others from the educational system, manifesting in fewer opportunities for engagement in education, lower levels of participation in formal education, and poorer educational outcomes. While complex factors underpin educational deprivation, international research is in broad agreement that economic deficiency and social isolation contribute to underachievement at school which, in turn, perpetuates the cycle of poverty. Based on a review of literature, this paper examines the response from the education authorities in Ireland to educational disadvantage between 1965 and 2020, highlighting responses from the Department of Education that have focused on increased funding in digital and information technology and on projects providing equality of access to education from preschool to third level. Notwithstanding the growth in retention
and participation rates in education over the past 55 years, it is contended that the continuance of poverty demonstrates both the multidimensional aspect of socio-economic disadvantage and the requirement for greater interdepartmental and community collaboration in its amelioration. Finally, the paper draws attention to shortcomings in the official digital and information technology strategy for schools shown up by COVID-19 – a time of sudden school and college closures, resulting in virtual classrooms becoming a forum for learning. A wide variation in response, throughout primary, post-primary and third-level education suggests that, after 25 years of investment in digital technology, the embedding of information and assistive technology necessary for delivering lessons on line has not occurred. [DOWNLOAD PDF]