This article aims to encourage discussion and debate about the terminology and definitions surrounding the term ‘development education’ (DE) in the Republic of Ireland. It sets out to provide a perspective on how the term DE is used and debated and the views expressed should be considered as part of a wider discussion amongst development educators in Ireland. The article begins by tracing the evolution of the term ‘development education’ in an Irish context primarily. It outlines how, from the 1950s and 1960s onward, DE was shaped by a political and often radical agenda with strong links to the civil society sector in Ireland. It shows how the community and voluntary sector have always had a strong impact on the story of DE in Ireland and continues to do so today. It also briefly charts the history of the Irish State approach to DE.
The article then discusses three debates within the DE sector in Ireland. The first could broadly be called the ‘development education and education for sustainable development (ESD)’ debate. Tracing the evolution of both terms in Ireland, this article questions if there is some tension in academic discourse in Ireland regarding retaining the use of the terms DE and ESD. The article contends that we should be clear about the meaning of each term and that we should not allow the term DE to be replaced by the term ESD explaining why. The second debate concerns the term ‘global education’ (GE). The article contends that GE is not a more recent term for DE, but rather a generic term which includes DE. A third discussion focuses on ‘citizenship education’ (CE) or ‘education for global citizenship’ (EGC). The link between CE and DE has not been as strongly evident in Ireland as in the United Kingdom (UK) and elsewhere.
What is important to state is that whichever terminology is used, the theory and practice which informs the author’s work are based on traditions which have strong action for social justice, development and human-rights underpinnings.