Friday 28 April 2017

Too many on wrong courses -- former DCU boss

John Walshe Education Editor

PARENTS have been criticised for pushing their children into "socially attractive" professional courses at university simply because they scored high points in the Leaving Certificate.

"We have too many people in the wrong courses," former DCU president Prof Ferdinand von Prondzynski said yesterday.

He said that only in Ireland was there the extraordinary concept of "wasted points", whereby students with 500 or more points were encouraged by their parents to go into the professions, rather than "wasting" their points on computing courses, which might have a cut-off of 280 points. Often, he said, these students with high points may have no aptitude whatsoever for the professions.

"We have people who made career choices on completely false premises and this is one of the key problems that we are not addressing."

He told the National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals' annual conference in Galway that there was far too much emphasis on the professions in this country.

"Rather than lawyers, we need entrepreneurs. Rather than accountants, we need people who will set up businesses and do things," he said.

Prof von Prondzynski disclosed that before stepping down as head of DCU he had suggested to his presidential colleagues that they should reform the points system, as well as the CAO, which is legally owned by the universities.

"We could not get consensus. That's not to say that they did not agree with me, but the view was that the problems were so ingrained in the system that you could not remove them."

He added that the fear was that if universities made huge changes, this would cause such an outcry it would distract them from other activities.

Meanwhile, it has emerged that an extra €30m must be found by the Department of Education before the end of the year to pay for the surge in students getting maintenance grants for college.

The numbers qualifying for means-tested grants jumped more than 20pc in the 2009-2010 academic year to almost 70,000. A further rise is expected in the current academic year.

The department had budgeted €326m for the 2010 calendar year but this has proven to be insufficient as the numbers qualifying has soared following job losses in families.

Sources said that at least €30m had to be found immediately -- but it is unclear how this can be done without cuts in other areas of education.

Grants

The indications are that there will be a further huge rise this year.

Sean Ashe, CEO of Co Kildare Vocational Education Committee, said that in September of last year it had 1,250 new applications and reassessments, but this year there were more than 1,700.

The Student Support Bill which was published in 2008 provides for a single scheme and transfer of responsibility to the VECs.

But political sources said last night the intention now was to centralise the student grants function in one local authority, VEC or public body, which would have powers to outsource specific functions.

The intention is to complete the legislative process within the next few months, draw up the necessary regulations and have a consolidated scheme in place for 2011 applicants.

It is hoped that this will lead to greater efficiency and consistency.

Irish Independent

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