Saturday 29 April 2017

US firms call for overhaul of Irish education

Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

AMERICAN multinational employers have delivered a stinging attack on the Irish education system and called for a fundamental change to the Leaving Certificate points system.

The US companies want problem-solving capabilities rewarded in the exam to encourage the innovation and creativity needed in the economy.

In their submission to a body reviewing higher education, they suggest either a specific problem-solving paper that could be taken to supplement points -- or more points for problem-solving orientated questions.

In a damning indictment of the education system, the American Chamber of Commerce Ireland criticises the reluctance to make the necessary change to the curriculum to adapt to the changing needs, with a new focus on creativity and innovative thinking.

It also highlights too much rote learning, facilitating high grades in the science, technology and engineering subjects that may not reflect the ability of the students to apply their knowledge effectively later in their career.

Poor problem-solving ability has been blamed for the only average performance in maths of Irish 15-year-olds identified in studies conducted by the international think-tank, the OECD.

Education Minister Batt O'Keeffe is pinning his hopes for an improvement in the national performance on a new hands-on maths curriculum being implemented in second-level schools.

Proposals

But the American Chamber of Commerce, the main collective voice of US companies in Ireland, says the Leaving Certificate points system should change.

The organisation has put forward its proposals to a review body on higher education set up by Mr O'Keeffe.

American industrial investment is critical to the Irish economy. There are a further 200,000 jobs relying indirectly on that investment.

But the chamber is concerned about the supply of graduates in science, engineering and technology for the economy of the future.

The chamber says that both a broad appreciation of science and the uptake of science and technology subjects by students are a necessary ingredient for Ireland's ambition to become an innovation-driven economy

It points to the growing importance of research capability and say there is a need "to inherently nurture creativity and innovation from an early stage to excite and engage our second-level students towards pursuing a career in these disciplines" .

Innovation and creativity skills could also be developed through courses in entrepreneurial skills for graduates, it adds.

The call for higher points for problem-solving is akin to repeated calls by the employers' group IBEC for bonus points for higher level maths to reward the effort involved, which has been ruled out by the minister.

As part of the drive to promote science and engineering as a career, Engineers Ireland is holding a volunteer day on Thursday, February 11, when engineers will enter classes across the country and spend a few hours working with pre-Junior Certificate students to improve their knowledge and appreciation of maths through puzzles and work sheets.

Irish Independent

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