Tuesday 28 March 2017

Let's think of internet access as a basic civil right

To talk of fostering the 'knowledge economy' without addressing the state of our second-level schools is simply delusional, says HP's Martin Murphy

URGENT second-level transformation is required if Ireland is to attract international investors over the next decade.

Knowledge is the key source of competitive advantage. The key to fulfilling our national potential is to make Ireland the innovation and commercialisation capital of Europe -- an attractive home for innovative multinationals and an incubation environment for the best entrepreneurs from Europe and further afield. One of the factors behind Ireland's economic success is the country's valuable human capital base: its young, well-educated and talented population.

Our education system has to mirror a modern Ireland -- defining what we stand for. It must do so by forming and maintaining its curriculum, setting an international pace in modern learning environments; it must be performance and outcome driven by high-quality, well-equipped teachers. We must put Ireland on the world stage through education.

We need to focus on what we will need in the future, recognising that the world for which we are preparing the next entrants to the educational system is more than 20 years away.

It is imperative that the system is not static but dynamic, flexible and creative; evolving.

Education must be a priority. It's the primary route to job creation.

Globally, economic value now comes from the creation and management of knowledge. We need more jobs based on knowledge and the transfer of information, and we need the pipeline of people equipped through education to get those jobs.

My own company has benefited internationally from Ireland's willingness to support jobs here. I am very proud of the 4,000 jobs that Hewlett Packard (HP) has created in Ireland, and the contribution they have made to the corporation.

HP Ireland has demonstrated the case within the HP family that there is a value for it to invest more in Ireland. If we can innovate, incubate and globalise from our Irish base, we can continue to attract investment. That investment won't come unless people here are educated to, and capable of delivering to international standards. There are three core areas that encapsulate the vision.

First, there must be a modern curriculum; second, we need to develop a modern learning environment; and, third, we must enable, support and reward teachers.

The curriculum needs to have a stronger emphasis on maths, science and the development of related technical competencies.

Bonus points should be introduced in maths. Science should be made compulsory, with a focus on responsible citizenship.

We also need to build skills that enable us to deal better with the wider global market. Fluency in at least two international languages should be required at Leaving Cert level. By 2012, every school in Ireland should offer an Asian language option.

We should reinvent the Junior Cert, and make better use of the transition year. We should look toward a more structured progression combining academic subjects, work experience and personal competency building,

I propose a target of two subjects being taught online by 2012. We must introduce continuous assessment, with credits for collaboration; and evidence of process and original thinking should become a core element of marking.

Third-level institutions must address their entry requirements. The points system does not recognise multiple intelligences; it should be adjusted, and be combined with context-specific aptitude tests.

We need national standards for virtual learning environments in our schools -- internet access is a basic human right! We need every school to have 100Mbps connection. Every fifth- and sixth-year student should have a laptop.

We must future-proof Information and Communications Technology (ICT) procurement by standardising and aggregating all ICT within our education system today.

In addition, we have to enable and support well-trained teachers and reward them for achievement. That requires ongoing investment programmes in professional development.

Let's brand Ireland as an international location to create, exploit and trade knowledge and know-how.

Martin Murphy is managing director of HP Ireland

• Series is compiled by John Reynolds

Sunday Independent

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