This is the first study of the cultural politics of Irish education. The analysis is placed in its comparative context and spans the eventful period since the 1950s. It seeks to identify and analyse changes in how the institution of education as well as a number of its key features are culturally understood and considers the manner in which particular interests and social projects are advanced and suppressed as one cultural interpretation is maintained and sanctioned over another. It differs from studies of the cultural politics of education elsewhere in its sustained use of the theoretically integrated concept of policy paradigm. This is schematised, drawing on resources from across the range of the social sciences.