Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Irish education system - must do better

There has been some talk recently of reforming the education system in Ireland – something that is long overdue.

As far back as the 1920s, the fledgling State’s rulers were more taken with the idea of using the education system as an instrument of Gaelic revivalism, promoting a spurious homogeneous Gaelic, Catholic identity. Then, at some point, it was decided to teach all primary school children through Gaelic… a language the majority did not speak nor understand.

Those who controlled the education system, the politicians, the Catholic Church and the Gaelic League did not care that such a policy would result in children leaving school early with no education, other than a cowed deference to authority – which had been beaten into them.

I  remember people going on about how great the Irish education system was when I was part of it in the 1980s… when even to a young participant it was anything but.   Our school had a sizeable complement of incompetent teachers: some violent, some clueless, some psychotic, and some plain mad.

But whatever about the past, an article on the subject of schooling in Ireland by Emer O’Kelly in the most recent Sindo made some pertinent contemporary observations, such as  these below:

"Those who didn't actually leave the education system without being able even to read and write (23 per cent of the adult population) were, apart from the very few of exceptional ability, products of a numbing system of rote learning which prevented provocative thought, intellectual exploration and critical analysis. They were uneducated, taught what to think, not how to think."

"Early retirement packages have been offered to teachers, allowing them to live extremely comfortably from their mid-50s onwards. And quite a lot of our "dedicated" teachers -- whose unions spend their time telling us of teacher selflessness, commitment, and risibly low salaries -- rushed to apply for the package.  (By the way, how is €69,500 for a job that ends at four in the afternoon and has three months' holidays "risible"?)."

"As things stand, a teacher aged 54 with 34 years' service, based on 2009 arrangements, will receive a pension of €28,322. It will be accompanied by a gratuity of €88,655. That's if the teacher goes in February."

Interesting stuff, eh?

Now look at the following equation, ye at the back!  

23% illiteracy +   €69,500  teachers' salaries = Teachers fail miserably. 

Think about that near ninety-grand retirees will receive.    The very time-servers who have done our children such a disservice should be seen off by means of a size-12 foot up the collective hole, rather than through a golden handshake.  That won't happen though, as they are unaccountable, so we just have to be happy we are getting rid of them at last - albeit at great expense.

To replace them, restrictions on foreign teachers working here – and many indigenous ones -  through a Gaelic proficiency requirement, should be ended.  Even as things stand, and ignoring the qualified-elsewhere teachers barred from employment in education, there are 2,000 non-permanent teachers to replace the 1,000 expected to take the money (according to O'Kelly). So let's re-educate them in any putative shake-up. 

And then let's slaughter some Dev-inspired sacred cows.  Compulsory Gaeilge and extra payments for teachers teaching it,  must end immediately.  As should extra points for students sitting exams as Gaeilge.  Both help to perpetuate the industry within education around the subject, and the latter distorts students' results as well as causing resentment.

Teachers should be made accountable - their jobs should be seen as responsible ones and treated as such. 

Finally, rote learning and regurgitation of facts should be replaced by an approach which enables pupils to actually understand the subjects they are being taught.

It might mean that, a few generations down the line, we would eventually have a populace capable of rational and critical thinking.

But then again, do our authorities really want such a thing?

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24 comments:

John said...

how did they react to the idea of league tables for schools as in UK.
The fact is that private schools look after the elite and who gives a stuff for the plebs. THE SYSTEM CONTINUES because it suits the minority who run this country. We will see more disparity as time goes on. Education as the means to moving up the social scale will again become the enclave of those that can afford it. Take the UK, I checked the new fees at the Open University, founded to encourage those without education to get it at affordable costs. As from 2012, the fees will be £5,000 per year. So it sums up, folks, where it is all heading for.

_windwalker_ said...

GM, may I call a bullshit ?
"a teacher aged 54 with 34 years' service"

This means a person became a teacher when he was 20, which implies he did not have higher education.

Is it actually possible (and wide-spread) in Ireland, or author of quoted article is just trying to provoke crowd ?

Dakota said...

The Republic of Ireland is a failed experiment - village of the damned. Its educational system is a good example of one of the self induced myths, which has grown up around it. It does nothing more than produce an unending conveyor of unthinking fools, steeped and intellectually, morally and psychologically blooded in cruelty. That's what it did, that's what it does, good.

Production of human clones for export to nations which have actually undergone meaningful revolutions, not mob rule. The civilian junta which initially set itself up at the behest of a dosile and complicit populace, did nothing but destroy the future for generations thereafter. It has happened again.....

There was no educational system in Ireland, since the foundation of the state.....Buy the past papers and get your teacher to devine the pattern for you. That's all it was. Actually you were probably at a severe disadvantage GM, as you were only roped into it in, in the 1980s.

All of those sacrifices and lost years? Questioning, gone, reasoning, gone, knowledge, gone....."Are much concerned about the wars they wage. And quite aware of what those wars are worth. Talk of our noble sacrifice and losses. To the wooden crosses."

Anonymous said...

If our education system could be wrestled away from the dry rot that is the churches and the Irish language headbangers, it would free up so much time and resources. Even if it was all put into art classes, it would be far more beneficial and stimulating to the youngsters imagination. It seems the Dept. of Education is still infested with the Irish "scholarly" types that see little point in teaching foreign languages or science and technology. Seemingly they are not perturbed by the poor literacy and basic maths skills. Like everything in this country, education is run by twisted, inward looking vested interests, with no concern for the development of the person or country. The rot continues.

Anonymous said...

If interested the figure of 23% illiterate is dodgy.

See http://www.esr.ie/vol30_3/1_Denny.pdf for a good article on the old 'dammed lies and statistics'

Abstract: Recent media attention has focused on the low ranking of Ireland in a major international
study on literacy. In this paper we examine the dataset used in these studies to consider the reason
behind the low ranking. We find significant evidence that the underlying reason for this is the low
level of formal schooling of older individuals, possibly due to the lack of free secondary schooling.
Moreover we find that formal schooling in Ireland has a bigger effect on literacy outcomes than in
either Northern Ireland or Great Britain.

The Gombeen Man said...

The ESRI study you refer to was published in 1999. The PISA one last year - it applies the same criteria in all the OECD countries surveyed, and is concerned with pupils and students.

Anonymous said...

On PISA in 2000 on literacy Ireland came 2nd in Europe, in 2003 in Maths we got the same score as Germany and beat the US, and in 2006 we got a higher score in science than Sweden, the US and France.

In PISA 2009 on literacy Ireland scored the same as France and better than Denmark and the UK.

Ireland's drop in scores in 2009 was attributed to the increase in students of an immigrant background, and Ireland was one of the countries where students of an immigrant background scored worse, but still not as bad as students of an immigrant background in Denmark,
Austria, Sweden, Belgium, Spain, Italy, or Finland.

The evidence does not support your argument.

anna said...

Ed Walsh ( the 29 yr old Irish academic whiz who was 1st head of Univ of Limerick in the 70's)recently published memoirs: he too said Irish primary education Must be wrested from catholic church to have a relevant curriculum, less religion and rote learning etc. I think he also said less Irish- more foreign languages.
And read John Mc Gahern for Irish education of 40-50 yrs ago: when he went to a catholic teacher training college, it was impressed on him teaching was 'the 2nd priesthood!!!!'
oh and he said then some days primary curriculum consisted of religion and Irish being taught 1/2 the day.-Anna

The Gombeen Man said...

John. Yes, there is still a lack of participation at third level from disadvantaged areas. There should be financial support to opportunity to education for all, rather than the usual middle-class clones. I also think part of the problem starts earlier than that though, way back to primary and secondary and bad teaching/curriculum.

@ Windwalker. Duly called. Hadn't noticed the writers' inaccuracy. Fair play to you.

@ Dakota. A failed state, backed up by its education system, such as it is. And weren't Paddy Pee and Dev among its inspirations. Great quote. Good sort, old Siegfried.

@ Anon 22.13. "If our education system could be wrestled away from the dry rot that is the churches and the Irish language headbangers". If only. These people are so far up their arses it's untrue. There was one lecturer writing in the Irish Times the other day, who thought TG4's veiwing figures for a rugby match were affirmation of the state-funded stations' success. No... people wanted to look at a rugby match, that's all. Even if they could not understand a word.

@ Anon 20.03. Would you mind saving your student debating, and relentless Google searches, for the start of term, eh? Ireland's falling literacy levels are a recognised problem here, so much so that even Quinn is taking note. But you're probably a bit out of the loop. Blame it all on the immigrants if you like, rather than the system. Who's right-wing now, eh?

@ Anna. "oh and he said then some days primary curriculum consisted of religion and Irish being taught 1/2 the day." Recipe for success that. Made us what we are today.

Dakota said...

Completely agree GM but stats are just that, stats. Fine on a page but not worth anything to a child deserving a basic education from a lucid and sane individual, in a lucid and sane system. This is Ireland we're talking about GM, not the enclave around Dublin 4, right? Anyone doubting the state of the said system need look no further than all of the rest of the illustrious systems, which run the state on a daily basis. Finance anyone? Drive the so called safest roads in Europe, (yes also stats and not saying much for safety on European roads, by the way) GM where else on the planet would you see an individual using their indicator at a slight bend on a continuous road? Where else would you see a Paddy using at least four high intensity-xenons and not give a toss for oncoming traffic? Both not represented as a little box you can tick but reality on Irish roads nonetheless.

Ireland is not the centre of the universe, for the love of Buddha,
it can't even educate its children. It even has them lying on hospital trolleys, when it suits them. All in a country with the population of Greater Manchester. It's beneath contemt.
The education system in Ireland is closed and self regulating, to the point where the end user of the experience gained, is very often superfluous to the requirements of the hegemony. That's both state and people.

It's people as cattle.

Remember there was 15 years when money was in abundance and there was still rat infested classes of 40 or so children, being taught by a Gombeen from Paddy politicians Gombeen constituency. That's the reality, the money was there and Paddy and Mary would rather have spent it on tat. It's not as if there was never any money......

To get back to the stats, GM, what if it was 2%and not 23%, what's in a number? It's peoples lives. Very basic stuff to most other western nations. But honestly does not enter the vernacular in Ireland, why break the tradition? It was and is, what you can get away with. Paddy and Mary know that's true but wont admit it, even when the future of the children are at stake.

Please, please, lets stop the pretence that this joke is a republic in any sense of the word.

Anonymous said...

Memories from primary school.
Counting along the posts of the boundary fence to keep track of the ten Hail Mary's, before the Our Father. Then down for two hours of "buntus"?, or whatever Irish torture they had lined up. Even as a child I knew this was nonsense and a waste of time. It makes me angry to think how a genuine interest to learn about the world, how things work, nature etc was practically ridiculed.

I sometimes wonder what I could have been.

Anonymous said...

What a load of bollocks. If kids don't know anything, it's because parents are lazy and irresponsible.

School is an adjunct to learning. It's important mostly for social skills. The real education happens at home. You say you actually care about your brats? Then show some of that most un-Irish of virtues: personal responsibility. Read to/with them, ask them questions, give them maths problems, teach them to ask questions, help with homework, engage their imaginations. Reward initiative. Yeah, fewer hours down the pub, or chatting bitchily about your Bimmer, I'm afraid. You expect school and TV and facebook to do the trick? Good. Your brats will be working for mine. Cheap.

thomas

John said...

This will rely add to our education
"A €6 million project is set to produce the first new Irish-English Dictionary in 50 years.
The new dictionary from Foras na Gaeilge will add thousands of ‘new’ Irish words into the lexicon.

The State has not produced an up-to-date edition since 1959.

Technological words in particular will form the bulk of the new words.

By the end of this year people on the internet (idirlin) will be able to Tweet (Tuit) their followers (lucht leanuna) i nGaeilge and let them know if their latest video has gone viral (mearscaipthe)."

WOW, that is great?? makey up words
I think...good to see money not wasted.

John said...

TWO MAYO PUBLICANS may have exposed a gaping hole in the Irish justice and language system, after escaping prosecution for keeping their pubs open after hours – because the appropriate laws don’t exist in Irish.

http://www.thejournal.ie/could-two-mayo-publicans-have-exposed-a-gaping-hole-in-irelands-legal-system-184394-Jul2011/

Solicitors for each of the publicans provided letters from the Office of Public Works, who confirmed that the Intoxicating Liquor Acts of 2000, 2003 and 2004 had not been translated into Irish, which under the Constitution is the official language of Ireland.

The Gombeen Man said...

Lots of things are permissable if you are a Gaeilgeoir...

Here's another one:

http://gombeennation.blogspot.com/2008/03/ocuivs-charter-for-legal-obfuscation.html

John said...

Thanks that link, GM,and you have to add that the case law that would be referenced in the trial plus evidence would also have to be translated into Irish, clever device to delay a case. And the money to be earned by the Irish translators..it would put the tribunals in the penny place.

Anonymous said...

Are we now free to plunder, slaughter or rape to our hearts content now given that most of the relevent legislation predates the establishment of the state and therefore presumably wont have been translated into Gaelic ?

Netgeek

albert hall said...

The old saying about teachers who avoid real work comes to mind: "Those who do, do, Those who don't teach." I heard a university teacher say that he had left teaching and gone into industry but had to resign as the pace of the work was too much for him. His first best seller came out 12 months later.

Anonymous said...

"Our school had a sizeable complement of incompetent teachers: some violent, some clueless, some psychotic, and some plain mad"

And lets not forget those who were simply lazy.

Anonymous said...

@Dakota Oh, what a diatribe of hate. I suggest you get therapy as soon as possible before you do yourself or others injury.

The Gombeen Man said...

Really?

I suggest you explain what, exactly, is so "hateful" about the comments you refer to? Is it "hateful" to have a critical opinion?

Also, some kind of name or pseudonym would be appreciated.

mollyailsa said...

I'm from Ireland, and there are a lot of problems with the education system here - mainly the short-sightedness of the Department of Education. For example, I'm in 6th year (final year) and am all ready to sit my Leaving Certificate (final exams in Ireland) but have just been told that I have to repeat a year on the grounds that I am too young, having only done my Junior Cert last year (3rd year exams). I've done all of the coursework and will be 16 by the time of the exams - I see this as being ageist. I set up a petition to let me sit my exams this summer - I'd be really grateful if you could take a look.
https://www.change.org/p/jan-o-sullivan-allow-molly-o-gorman-to-do-her-leaving-cert-in-2015?after_sign_exp=default&just_signed=true

Molly O'Gorman said...

I'm from Ireland, and there are a lot of problems with the education system here - mainly the short-sightedness of the Department of Education. For example, I'm in 6th year (final year) and am all ready to sit my Leaving Certificate (final exams in Ireland) but have just been told that I have to repeat a year on the grounds that I am too young, having only done my Junior Cert last year (3rd year exams). I've done all of the coursework and will be 16 by the time of the exams - I see this as being ageist. I set up a petition to let me sit my exams this summer - I'd be really grateful if you could take a look.
https://www.change.org/p/jan-o-sullivan-allow-molly-o-gorman-to-do-her-leaving-cert-in-2015?after_sign_exp=default&just_signed=true

Molly O'Gorman said...

I'm from Ireland, and there are a lot of problems with the education system here - mainly the short-sightedness of the Department of Education. For example, I'm in 6th year (final year) and am all ready to sit my Leaving Certificate (final exams in Ireland) but have just been told that I have to repeat a year on the grounds that I am too young, having only done my Junior Cert last year (3rd year exams). I've done all of the coursework and will be 16 by the time of the exams - I see this as being ageist. I set up a petition to let me sit my exams this summer - I'd be really grateful if you could take a look.
https://www.change.org/p/jan-o-sullivan-allow-molly-o-gorman-to-do-her-leaving-cert-in-2015?after_sign_exp=default&just_signed=true