Commission of Inquiry into Intermediate Education, 1898-1899.

Many witnesses to this commission of inquiry stated that the payment by results system encouraged cramming and learning by rote because of the large sums of money to be gained by the students. The tendency towards over-pressure which the Intermediate examinations induced in many girls' boarding schools was also brought to light.

Dr Kathleen Maguire, one of the first women doctors in Ireland, obtained timetables from various girls' boarding schools which showed that their students worked for a daily average of between eight and nine hours. Few schools fell below eight hours while four schools worked a daily average of between nine and ten hours.

There were rewards for the select few who did win the valuable Senior Grade Exhibitions which were worth £50. In the 1890s the most popular presents given to them by their delighted parents were ponies or bicycles.

Meanwhile it was stated that most girls' schools, especially in provincial areas, remained desperately short of funds and yet were expected to provide extra teachers for the additional subjects taught. There were no orals in Modern Languages or practicals in Science. Others complained about the way History was treated, as it was worth only 250 out of a total 1000 marks for English.

The influence of the Intermediate system on the teaching of Science also came under attack. Out of 91 girls who passed the Senior Grade examination in 1898, only seven took Botany, two took Natural Philosophy and none took Chemistry.

In the early 1900s some changes did take place in these examinations. Marks were more evenly distributed among the different subjects, the names of successful students were no longer published, more freedom was allowed in the choice of textbooks and Science programmes were improved. But these reforms were piecemeal measures and no attempt was made to get rid of payment by results until 1924 under the Irish Free State Government.


  1. What factors were responsible for cramming, learning by rote and over-pressure at the end of the nineteenth century?

  2. What attempt was made to remedy these problems?


  1. Place the following in chronological order on the timescale:

Intermediate Examination Act
High School, Cork founded
Queen's Institute, Dublin founded
Alexandra School, Dublin founded
Alexandra College, Dublin founded
Royal University of Ireland Act
St. Angela's High School, Cork founded
Endowed Schools Commission
Dominican College, Eccles St., Dublin founded
Special Report on Convent Schools
Mrs Byers' School, Belfast founded
Central Association of Irish School Mistresses founded

Mrs Byers' School, Belfast founded 1859


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