Sunday 28 December 2014

Editorial: Last of the cuts - if the eurozone holds up

Editorial

Published 15/08/2014 | 02:30

Finance Minister Michael Noonan will be keeping a close eye on the eurozone
Finance Minister Michael Noonan will be keeping a close eye on the eurozone
Even final exams at college are not as stressful as the Leaving Cert

Budget 2015 is supposed to be the last of the major adjustments needed to rein in the public finances in the wake of the economic meltdown.

The package of spending cuts and tax hikes had been set for €2bn. However, ministers have acknowledged that the level of growth in the economy and the health of the tax returns means the adjustment will be far lower - possibly less than €1bn.

The negotiations for Budget 2015 will also set ceilings for spending in 2016 and 2017, taking the Coalition's predictions beyond the next general election.

The purse strings won't be opened from next year or thereafter, but there should be adequate levels of growth in the economy in the coming years to ensure no further adjustments are required. If governments want to expand on the spending side or provide tax relief, whatever parties are in power will have to find the resources through reductions elsewhere.

All of this is predicated on continued economic growth on an international level, particularly in the eurozone.

Therefore, the worrying signs emerging from the European economic powerhouses have to be observed carefully, due to the knock-on effect on the fiscal position in this country. Following on from Italy slipping back into recession, growth in the eurozone stuttered to a halt in the three months to June as Germany's economy contracted and France stagnated.

The painful adjustment has got us this far, but we're not out of the woods just yet and our open economy leaves us susceptible to changing financial winds elsewhere.

 

Exam system must deliver for both sexes

ANOTHER year, another tour de force by girls, who continue to outperform boys in the Leaving Certificate.

It is a familiar pattern, in examination systems in Ireland and further afield, for girls to achieve higher grades as they leave school.

In Ireland, with the exception of maths - and a small number of other subjects - girls continue to achieve higher grades at both higher and ordinary level than their male counterparts.

The suggested reasons for the education gender gap are myriad.

It is said that the better grades achieved by girls can be explained by the fact that they are better organised and that the traditional format of a written exam operates to the detriment of boys, who tend to fare better in multiple-choice-style exams.

Previous research has also suggested that single-sex schools are better for girls, with boys - in contrast - achieving better grades when they attend mixed-sex schools.

Every year, thousands of young people leave school before taking the Leaving Certificate.

This attrition, in the main, affects boys, who are more likely to drift away from formal education, as early as their second year in the second-level cycle.

As the Government moves to overhaul our education system, it must design one that delivers for both sexes, whatever their differences.

However, the gender gap is a double-edged sword and one that extends beyond the school cycle.

We must also address why girls and young women, who outperform boys at school, fall victim to a gender gap that can favour men once they enter the labour force.

Irish Independent

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