What a great day it has been! We had a full day of listening to lectures at the University of College Cork, and visiting Blarney Castle. I have been absolutely amazed by how much I have learned about Irish education in one day!
The three professors (Dr. Kevin Cahill, Dr. Tracey Connolly, and Dr. Dan O'Sullivan) were so knowledgeable and very interesting to listen to. Dr. Cahill taught us about Irish education and what it is like from pre-school all the way up until the university level. One very interesting fact about their schools is that, especially at the primary level, the schools are religion based: 91% of primary schools in Ireland are Roman Catholic. This is clearly different than in the United States, where religion is mostly only associated with private schooling.
Dr. Connolly discussed the history of Irish education since before even the 1830s. We saw the major growth in education that took place over the years. In 1841, the population of children over the age of 5 years old that were unable to read was 53%. In 1901, the population of illiterate children was only 14%. You can see that even in those 60 years, the importance of education increased immensely.
Lastly, Dr. O'Sullivan discussed the Provision for pupils with Special Educational Needs in the Republic of Ireland. We saw how special education differs with Ireland and the United States. It was interesting that Ireland is very inclusive with their students with disabilities in the mainstream classrooms, while we do much less of this in the United States. The parental advocacy here is also outstanding. They fight for their children's rights and really try to help the teachers out!
After the lectures, we visited the Blarney Castle. I absolutely loved getting to explore Blarney Castle and the gardens around it. (Not to mention the shopping we got to do in Blarney after). All of our students got to kiss the Blarney Stone at the very top of the castle, which will supposedly help us to be prosperous. Each student got millions of pictures of flowers, trees, and cows!
We ate dinner at The Flying Enterprise in Cork City Center. The food was delicious (I personally had the prime rib roast, which I would recommend to anyone visiting.)
I know we are all looking forward to tomorrow where we get more lectures and even professional visits into the schools of Cork! I know I can't wait!