Wednesday 28 September 2016

In my opinion: Local education boards are embracing a very different future

Michael Moriarty

Published 21/09/2016 | 02:30

Michael Moriarty
Michael Moriarty

Implementing reform in the field of education has always been difficult to undertake and the breaking of the status quo is never easy, as we see in the efforts to implement the reform of the Junior Cycle programme in second-level schools.

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While some teachers continue to resist the new changes to the Junior Cycle programme, the reforms have been widely welcomed by most educators, teachers, students and parents, with implementation now under way in many schools, including all education and training board (ETB) schools and colleges.

This educational reform in our schools is a necessary process and is most essential if the education sector is to prepare students adequately for a future world about which we know little. What we do know is that many of the jobs we are familiar with today will not exist in 20 years' time and, equally, many jobs of the future do not yet exist. How do we best prepare students for such a scenario?

The answer lies in nurturing and developing a range of genuinely transferable skills in our students, which will give them the capacity to survive in a rapidly changing world. These skills include critical thinking, teamwork, information technology (IT), communication and language skills. All are essential, transferable skills necessary for the future world of work and must be nurtured and developed today in the world of education and training. This is the aim of the current on-going reform of the Junior Cycle. It is moving away from placing all the emphasis on the results of a single terminal examination in each subject to include continuous evaluation of a range of individual and team skills.

Junior Cycle reform will change what teachers value and test, as it switches some of the emphasis away from examining students on how much they remember of what they have been taught to finding out what they can do with what they have learned.

What was good enough in the past will no longer be good enough for a future which will place greater demands on individual and team leadership, innovation and entrepreneurship. This will require the application of knowledge in a variety of settings. Junior Cycle reform must be seen in this context. Curriculum reform will lead to other changes for schools, staff and students. Schools must facilitate and develop new learning pathways for their students. They will need to partner with other schools, third level institutions and local businesses to help students develop their skills' base and awareness of various aspects of working life.

This week, the annual conference of Education and Training Boards Ireland (ETBI) will focus on a range of topics which demonstrate the capacity of the ETBs to embrace change and evolution as essential elements of this dynamic, progressive sector.

Education and training boards have already undertaken major structural changes in recent years as they have evolved into regional education authorities. They can, and will continue, to adapt as they have done in the past, as the needs and requirements of the State and the Irish people evolve. ETBs have embraced the Junior Cycle reform agenda because their collaborative ethos has always informed their future perspective, which embraces local community needs and acknowledges that the new curricular approach will help to equip our students for the challenges ahead.

ETBs will continue to evolve and embrace ongoing reforms in the delivery of school and centre-based education and training programmes because that is their culture. ETB management and staff have always displayed innovation and flexibility, and therefore recognise the need for ongoing evolutionary change in education and training, which embraces a very different and unknown future.

Michael Moriarty is general secretary of ETBI, the representative body for Ireland's 16 education and training boards.

Irish Independent

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