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Chair of the Arts in Education Portal Committee pays tribute to Professor John Coolahan


Image copyright Department of Education and Skills

Professor John Coolahan R.I.P.

Chairperson of the High Level Implementation Group for the Arts in Education Charter, Professor John Coolahan, passed away last Sunday 3rdJune 2018, surrounded by his loving family. He had been ill for the last year and fought his illness in the same way he lived his life, with dignity.

John was a pivotal figure in Irish education policy for more than 50 years and was often referred to as the “Father of Irish Education”. He was an academic, a researcher, an author, a primary and second-level teacher and an adviser to successive governments on the drafting of educational policy. John Coolahan, who was Professor Emeritus of Education at Maynooth University, lectured extensively in Ireland and abroad. He wrote three books, including Irish Education, its History and Structure (1981), and published more than 120 articles in Irish and international journals. He is widely credited with shaping a modern vision for Irish education, underpinned by legislation, and he also chaired the Irish Forum on Patronage and Pluralism in the primary sector. He was a “colossus in Irish education” and his life was an inspiration for all who care about teaching, learning and research.

He was a founding member and president of the Educational Studies Association of Ireland and was editor of Irish Educational Studies. He had numerous public service roles and served on a range of Ministerial committees and on the boards of educational and cultural bodies. At international level, he was a member of the OECD’s review team on education and was vice-president of the EU committee on education. He was also a consultant to the World Bank and the Council of Europe, a member of the review body on education in Northern Ireland, and the co-founder and co-chairman of the standing conference on teacher education, North and South.

To us associated with the Arts in Education Portal, he will be remembered as the Chairperson and the voice of the Arts in Education Charter. He was jointly appointed in 2013 by the then Minister for Education and Skills Ruarai Quinn and Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Mr Jimmy Denihan as Chairperson of the High Level Implementation Group for the Arts in Education Charter. He was a passionate advocate for the integration of the arts in education both within and outside of the school environment and he championed the rights of all children to fulfil their creative potential. He was so delighted and proud of the achievements of the Arts in Education Charter which included initiatives such as the launch of the Arts in Education Portal, Teacher-Artist Partnership as a model for CPD, Irelands Arts Education Research Repository and various other initiatives. He believed in dialogue, collaboration and mutual respect for all organisations and stakeholders in the area of arts in education.

I had the privilege of working with John as a member of the High Level Implementation Group for the Arts in Education Charter since 2013. I count myself very lucky to have had this experience and be mentored by John on the integration of the arts in education. I learned so much from him and all the fantastic people and committee’s we met over the last five years. I was proud to call him my friend as was everyone we encountered. He was a gentleman, a scholar and the kindest and most modest person I have ever had the pleasure to work with.  Ní bheidh a leithéid arís ann.

Dr. Katie Sweeney, Chairperson of the Arts in Education Portal Editorial Committee & National Director for the Integration of the Arts in Education.

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