Wednesday 18 October 2017

Government's inertia on education results in vested interests ruling the roost

Finance Minister Michael Noonan and Taoiseach Enda Kenny - the former teachers won't reform education
Finance Minister Michael Noonan and Taoiseach Enda Kenny - the former teachers won't reform education
Ivan Yates

Ivan Yates

This Government came to power amidst expectations of significant education reform. Ruairi Quinn challenged vested interests. Half our 3,100 primary schools would be divested from Catholic Church control towards secular multi-denominational patronage.

Curriculum, syllabus and exam reforms meant wider learning experiences by introducing school-based assessments, rather than 100pc written exams. A value-for-money review was to rationalise smaller national schools into minimum viable sizes, abolishing one/two teacher schools. Four years later, these plans have run into the sand. Instead of impetus inertia is now the mark of Marlborough Street.

Education Minister Jan O'Sullivan is a nice person - polite, self-effacing, sincere, non-combative. Too nice, methinks. Vested interests rule the roost. The teachers unions, the ASTI and TUI, have thwarted changes to the Junior Cert. The Church has yet to hand over a single primary school to another patron. Last week, without debate the Cabinet retained national schools with fewer than 50 pupils. Forty-four one-teacher schools will continue to have eight classes in one room. One third of these tiny schools are in Mayo. The Taoiseach's short-term need for votes outweighs optimal education or efficiency savings of €20m, relocatable to disadvantaged schools.

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