A review of the place of History in the curriculum offered to Junior Cycle students in secondary schools is expected to be completed by the end of next March.

The subject has been surrounded by controversy because of a perceived downgrading of its importance under the new Junior Cycle framework.

Prior to the introduction of the new framework, History was a mandatory subject in approximately half of all post-primary schools, although in reality around nine out of ten students studied the subject at Junior Cycle.

Under the new framework, History is no longer mandatory. Only three subjects - English, Irish, and Mathematics - are.

News of this change provoked outcry from history teachers, historians and others.

Last April the President rowed in, saying that he shared with historians their "deep and profound concern". During a speech to mark the publication of a new History of Ireland, Michael D Higgins said that a knowledge and understanding of history was "intrinsic to our shared citizenship".

The Minister for Education announced his intention to review the subject at the Fine Gael Ard Fheis earlier this month. 

Today Joe McHugh said he had met the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment to discuss the review. Although its precise scope has yet to be set out, a spokesperson for the Department said the review would include examining whether or not the subject should be optional.

In a statement, the minister said he had also asked the NCCA to identify how best to promote the study of history in schools. Joe McHugh said it was "very important that our education system gives our young people the opportunity to learn about, and learn from, key times and events in our history, particularly in the context of our decade of centenaries".

He said these included the end of the First World War as well as the foundation of the State and the role of women in society. 

 "The study of history also gives pupils the chance to consider and learn from the story of Irish migration, of the journey from conflict to peace on this island, the experience and lessons to be learned from our most recent history and the rich history of our Irish language and its place in our culture and our heritage", he said.

A new revised history curriculum or 'specification' was introduced in schools this year. Under the revised framework the minimum time allocated for subjects such as history is 200 hours over the three years of Junior Cycle, or the equivalent of three 40-minute periods per week. 

The Department of Education says that for many schools, this will lead to an increased time provision for History as a subject. 

It says development of the new specification for History involved extensive consultation with key stakeholders and the public. 

In a statement, the Department said the new curriculum facilitated the development of skills such as interpreting a range of texts, communicating, working with others, critical thinking and managing information, particularly through the use of digital technology. 

It went on to say that it offered "the chance to better align junior cycle History with the experiences of pupils in primary school, and with the skills and knowledge required in senior cycle History, including document-handling and project work".