Tuesday 19 September 2017

Moving beyond crude system will create self-directed students and aid recovery


Jason Ward

Today, Leaving Certificate students start their exams with most of them aiming to get enough points to go to college.

For many, it is a stressful time, and expectations will be high, particularly since the points system is a crude measure of student ability. However, under new government plans, this is about to change.

The Government's reform agenda in education is sweeping and timely. From the perspective of a multinational such as EMC, the reforms have a bearing on the type and quality of graduates who will emerge in three or four years to take up jobs in the information technology (IT) sector.

In reforming the points-based model for college entry, the Government has recognised that students have become exponents of total recall, better at learning by rote than thinking critically.

There are other initiatives, such as Project Maths, the curricular reform plan that teaches 'real-life' maths, now rolling through junior and senior cycle. It will be some time before we know whether Project Maths is working but, if it is, we should move immediately to migrate the plan to primary schools.

In its recent report on the transition from second level to higher education, the Government committed to reducing the number of Level 8 (honours degree) programmes and making them more broadly based.

This is an acknowledgment that our colleges can produce over-specialised programmes, when they should be giving students the freedom to explore interdisciplinary courses and then figure out their strengths.

The recent spike in the number of students choosing IT-related college courses is encouraging. So, too, is the rise in students choosing higher-level maths. But, in driving more students into these programmes, we must at the same time ensure that they are properly calibrated for emerging jobs.

For example, analysts estimate that, by 2015, there will be 4.4 million IT jobs globally supporting big data analytics. But, to fill these jobs, we will need more tailored big-data college programmes that draw together strands across maths, computing, science and sociology.

This fusion of previously silo-based disciplines is key to producing graduates with the breadth of skills and knowledge needed for a sophisticated economy.

The push for junior and senior cycle reform, with an emphasis on creating self-directed students, is important for our recovery. As employers, we want to partner with Government and educators to help shape a responsive curriculum.

Together, we can all help create new opportunities for the class of 2013.

Jason Ward is EMC's Director for Ireland, Scotland and UK North

Irish Independent

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