Back Of The Syllabus


There remains ‘a significant lack of fair and equal representation’ of black authors in the Leaving Cert, a new campaign argues.

Hannah McMahon writes:

The current Irish leaving cert English curriculum covers a variety of eclectic and dynamic poets, authors and playwrights from around the world.

But unfortunately, there remains to be a significant lack of fair and equal representation of poems, stories and creative works from black authors.

I want to change this, so that sixth year students can benefit from a more balanced representation of the literature, poems and plays provided by the authors, poets and playwrights in our current English syllabus, and make them more conscious, informed and well rounded in their perspectives as they make their way to third level education.

Can We Lose ‘The Lost Heifer’?


Petition here

26 thoughts on “Back Of The Syllabus

  1. gallantman

    Although it would be weird if they were all African American considering the diversity of black cultures around the world. Also are there many Asian/Russian/Indian authors on the syllabus….??

      1. Clampers Outside

        Different cultures of the continent of Africa versus American culture is what he’s driving at, or so I understood it anyway.

  2. Zaccone

    How many Asian authors are on the syllabus? Or authors from the Indian subcontinent? Those regions together make up over 2/3rds of the planet’s population, and have written works going back millennia. Surely they should be the first priorities for more representation if we’re looking at a global level?

    Or if we’re talking about representation in an Irish context, why not Polish authors? We have far more Polish-Irish people than African-Irish people statistically.

    I’m all for expanding the syllabus to cover far more world literature. But it just seems rather like virtue signalling (or worse, actual racism) to focus on only one race of authors, no?

  3. Gabby

    Shur they complained about so few Irish women poets on the Leaving Cert. Then more were put into the school anthology. Are we going to have more sectional demands like this? Life for Leaving Cert students is going to get more complicated. Leading some to appreciate poetry in the first place is a very difficult job for teachers.

  4. SOQ

    Do you not understand how racist you appear Hannah? I am not having a go- just asking.

    Give us something other than friggen skin colour- ANYTHING.

    1. SOQ

      Presenting all black Irish back to themselves as weak victims angers me is all.

      My sympathy is that they live mainly live in Tallaght- the place Dublin bus forgot.

      Gin consumed.

      1. fluffybiscuits

        Throw on your feather boa and listen to the kylie records, the rest of us dont deserve the queenie reputation you uphold :p

  5. Slightly Bemused

    Not sure about the current syllabus, but I just checked my Soundings. As far as I can tell, it is exclusively British (English, Welsh and Scottish) poets alongside the Irish ones. I could not find my copy of the Inter Cert version (Exploring English) but likely it is the same.

    I was struck when the film Invictus came out that I had not learned that in school, nor the poem If by Ruyard Kipling (a great poem, whatever about the man).

    We definitely need our children exposed to a wider global collection.

    And yep, please get rid of The Lost Heifer!

  6. Nullzero

    We still don’t have “Everyone who disagrees with me is a Nazi” by Entitled McOffended on the curriculum, for shame.

  7. RT

    I remember studying “Things Fall Apart” by Nigerian author Chinua Achebe for LC English Higher Level “3 texts comparative question”. This firmly had an native village family as the central characters, and the backdrop
    was the changing society there during the British conquest in the late 19th century. This was alongside How Many Miles to Babylon (Irish class conflict/identity before/during WW1) & Cinema Paradiso (set in post-WW2 Sicily) all the way back in 2003. That was a fairly diverse scope of texts/film to study, alongside good auld Macbeth. Have things regressed on the diversity front, possibly under a new syllabus, in the 17 years since?!

    1. Slightly Bemused

      From what you say, the syllabus had actually progressed from when I did it 20 (mumble) years earlier. I take that as a very positive sign.
      I never read Things Fall Apart, but Nigerian TV did a screen version of it I watched a few years back. Removing the Nollywoodisms, it was a very powerful story.

  8. Truth in the News

    No doubt Irish History and Literature has a prominent place on the curriculum in
    the countries from where theses new Irelanders originally came from.

  9. Brian

    This strikes slightly of bandwagon jumping. The Leaving Cert texts for 2022 are available here:

    The 20 texts for the comparative novel/memoir part are below. I think they have a relatively good mix and at least there seems to be a willingness to add relatively new works to the list.
    ADICHIE, Ngozi Chimimanda Americanah
    ATKINSON, Kate Behind the Scenes at the Museum
    ATWOOD, Margaret The Handmaid’s Tale
    AUSTEN, Jane Persuasion
    BARRY, Sebastian Days Without End
    BRONTË, Emily Wuthering Heights
    DOERR, Anthony All the Light We Cannot See
    DONOGHUE, Emma Room
    ELIOT, George Silas Marner
    ISHIGURO, Kazuo Never Let Me Go
    LEVI, Primo If This Is A Man
    O’CONNOR, Nuala Miss Emily
    O’CONNOR, Joseph Star of the Sea
    PEACE, David The Damned Utd
    RASH, Ron The Cove
    SHELLEY, Mary Frankenstein
    TAYLOR, Sarah The Lauras
    WALLACE, Jason Out of Shadows
    WESTOVER, Tara Educated
    WILDE, Oscar The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891 version)

    I think teachers basically get to decide what the class studies – hence I was stuck with “Emma” for the LC. I suspect, no matter what is on the syllabus, many teachers will go with the “old reliables”.

    My main issue is the compulsory Shakespeare in the drama section. I’ve no problem with the Bard and obviously it makes life easier for teachers and students (lots of secondary materials) and provides jobs for the theatre groups who do the plays. He could be on the syllabus without being compulsory.

    Also while texts by Polish or Japanese authors might be a nice idea (Haruki Murakami would be great) my understanding is that texts had to be written in English originally (i.e. not translations). Although Primo Levi’s memoir on the list would mean I was wrong on that front.

    1. Gabby

      A very useful post. It catches the bandwaggoners out and it notes that teachers often plump for the ‘old reliables’ because they understand students’ cultural and psychological background.

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