Lives Remembered

Prof John Coolahan: 'Colossus' in Irish education who contributed to Burns Report

Prof John Coolahan was described as a "giant in the world of Irish education"

PROFESSOR John Coolahan has been described as the "father of Irish education".

As an adviser to successive Dublin governments, the Kerryman left a huge mark on education policy over half a century.

North of the border he was among the authors of the Burns Report, and his influence was also felt around the world through his work with the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development).

Prof Coolahan was a member of the Review Body on Post-Primary Education which in 2001 recommended an end to the 11-plus and academic selection in favour of parental choice guided by pupil profiles to schools working together in 'collegiate' networks.

Prof Tony Gallagher of Queen's University, who was an adviser to the review group, said he played an "invaluable role".

"He was the gigantic figure in Irish education for many years, the one who everyone looked to," he said.

"On the Burns group he brought an incredible wealth of knowledge and experience and he was very keen to encourage north-south connections.

"On top of that he was just an incredibly nice guy."

From Tarbert in north Kerry, John Coolahan was a teacher before becoming professor of education at Maynooth University and authored definitive histories of Irish education among his huge body of research.

A leader of OECD teams on country reviews of education and vice-president of the EU Education Committee, he was also a consultant to the World Bank and co-founder of the Standing Conference on Teacher Education, North and South.

In 2013 he chaired the Forum on Patronage and Pluralism in the Primary Sector, which recommended greater diversity in the Republic's Catholic-dominated school system.

Maynooth University President Prof Philp Nolan said he was a "giant in the world of Irish education”, while Minister of State Mary Mitchell O'Connor said he was a “colossus".

John Coolahan died on June 3. He is survived by his wife and four children.

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe from just £1 for the first month to get full access

Lives Remembered