We're no longer the best: Quinn
Minister hits out at 'self-delusional' belief we have top education system
'We have been codding ourselves over the past 20 years. Quite simply, we need to raise our standards'
THE commonly held view that the country's education system is competing with the best in the word is self-delusional, Education Minister Ruairi Quinn has claimed.
Speaking at Mary Immaculate College in Limerick, Mr Quinn said the education systems of other countries has caught up with and overtaken Ireland.
"While the Irish education system is well respected, we now know that the widely held belief that we have one of the best systems of education in the world is self-delusional," Mr Quinn said.
"We have simply been codding ourselves over the past 20 years," he added.
"We did have a very good education system and we will have one again, but in recent times we have dropped from fifth place to 17th in terms of literacy.
"Similarly we have dropped in science and mathematics."
"The world globalised economy knows that and they no longer see this country in the way it was seen before," he continued.
"It is not that just because there has been a collapse of internal standards within our education systems, it is just that many of our competitor countries have improved dramatically and we have to improve."
Mr Quinn said the Government's aim was for the country's education system to be in the top 10 of developed OECD countries.
Yesterday in Limerick, Mr Quinn spoke at a symposium on leadership and change in faith-based second-level schools and also opened the National Centre for Excellence in Mathematics, Science Teaching and Learning at Mary Immaculate College.
He said if students were to compete in the professional job market, they will need to develop critical, scientific and problem-solving skills.
"Education will help us achieve sustainable economic growth and, quite simply, we need to raise the standards in mathematics and science," Mr Quinn said.
"Research tells us that countries with high science and mathematics achievements scores tend to grow more rapidly than other countries."
"In the past number of years, our focus has been to move up the value chain by attracting companies that have a focus on research and development rather than manufacturing," he said.
He added that he will, in the near future, be announcing a major reform of the junior cycle in second-level schools, but added that he could not just "half-change" the secondary school system.
"We are going to have to look at the CAO system and how that works and how it takes into account all of the people who go into third level," Mr Quinn said.
Changes to the junior cycle will go live during the school term 2012-13 while changes to the senior cycle will come about four years after that.
"There will be different teaching methods, different ways of assessment -- a combination of state examinations and portfolio reviews.
"We want to get away from just memorising essays so that people are evaluated for how they think and what they think rather than how much they can remember," he added.