10pc of lessons given in our schools are sub-standard
Published 05/11/2013 | 02:00
SERIOUS weaknesses have been found in the teaching of Irish and maths in schools.
The most comprehensive snapshot ever of quality and standards in primary and post-primary education reveals some disturbing evidence of poor practice.
While it found that the majority of schools were well-managed, most teachers work effectively and the learning of students is generally satisfactory, there are significant problems in some areas.
Chief schools' inspector Harold Hislop expressed concern about the overall minimum of "10pc to 15pc of schools and lessons where less-than-satisfactory practices exist".
"Fundamentally, there are weakness in the teaching and learning of Irish in particular and, to a lesser degree, in maths, in a significant proportion of our schools," he said.
The Chief Inspector's Report, published for the first time, gives a detailed overview of the quality of teaching and learning, based on inspections in the majority of schools over the period 2010-12.
For first time also, the report includes the views of parents and pupils on their experiences of the education system, with 65,000 students and 67,000 parents completing questionnaires.
The findings on the quality of teaching and learning are based on a range of inspections carried out in half of primary schools and more than 90pc of post-primary schools.
In primary schools, it found that a "very significant" 24pc of Irish lessons were less than satisfactory.
In post-primary schools, teaching of Irish was "satisfactory or better" in only 72pc of classes, and in some cases teachers' own skills in the language were deficient. Shockingly, the quality of student learning in Ireland was found to be problematic in 32pc of cases.
Moves to improve the quality of Irish teaching and learning include longer teacher training and a new strategy on numeracy and literacy in schools.
Mr Hislop's report also highlighted issues around maths teaching in post-primary schools, which have been publicised before, and which are blamed for Ireland's disappointing showing in international student tests.
Mr Hislop said it was of concern that the quality of teaching was only "satisfactory or better" in 77pc of classes and the quality of learning was less than satisfactory in 26pc of lessons.
Efforts are under way to upskill maths teachers, where necessary, while hopes of improving national student performance are also pinned on the new Project Maths syllabus.
However, inspectors also noted that the depth of mathematical understanding required to teach Project Maths was challenging for some teachers.
The inspectors found a much more positive picture around the teaching and learning of English, at both primary and post-primary level.
Mr Hislop said among the issues raised by the inspections are the "definite shortcomings" in approaches to planning and preparing classes, at both primary and post-primary levels.
He also said there were crucial issues to be addressed about how students were assessed.
"Improvements in how schools assess and monitor the learning experiences and performance of their learners and in how they use the resulting information to plan for future teaching and learning are particularly important," he said.
Education Minister Ruairi Quinn said while the report acknowledged all the good practices taking place on a daily basis in schools, it also showed a system "screaming for reform" in some areas.