© 2016 The Author(s). This chapter critically examines the establishment and development of the national system of education in Ireland between 1831 and 2000. The rationale for the establishment of the system is delineated at the outset. This is followed by an overview of the impact of wider contextual developments, including political, socio-economic, cultural and religious factors. The curricula developed and implemented in national schools during five distinct eras throughout the period are used as the armature around which the wider educational developments at primary level are structured. By focusing on what was taught, why it was taught and how it was taught, the chapter provides an insight into the evolving educational experiences of children in national schools in Ireland during the period. These curriculum eras are largely distinct by virtue of their context, the philosophy underpinning the curriculum, the content and methodologies advocated, the approach to teacher education and the concept of the child inherent in the curriculum. The five distinct periods are: note: the five periods are: The establishment of the national system [1831-1872] The era of Payment by Results [1872-1900] The Revised Programme of Instruction (1900) [1900-1922] The curricula developed following Independence [1922-1971] The Primary School Curriculum (1971) [1971-1999]The chapter concludes by focusing on the key ideological changes underpinning the national system from its establishment in 1831.