Monday 20 January 2020

Asian languages must be taught in schools, warns business chief

Katherine Donnelly

EVERY second-level student should have the option of learning an Asian language by 2012, according to a leading multinational employer.

It is one of the priorities for a new-style education system, if Ireland is to continue to attract foreign investment and grow employment, Hewlett Packard (HP) Ireland managing director Martin Murphy told Education Minister Mary Coughlan.


Mr Murphy -- who heads the computer giant, which employs 4,000 people in this country alone -- yesterday presented Ms Coughlan with a list of "urgently needed" reforms for second-level education.

His programme of reforms moves well beyond incentivising students to study maths at higher level by awarding bonus points.

It includes:

  • Laptops for every fifth- and sixth-year student purchased on a cost-sharing basis with parents.
  • High-speed internet access for all schools of 100 megabits per second.
  • Compulsory study of science subjects.
  • Online teaching.
  • Fluency in at least two international languages at Leaving Cert level immediately, with an Asian-language option by 2012 in every school.
  • Performance-related pay for teachers.
  • Use of aptitude tests for third-level entry.

He said offering an Asian language was about sending the message to Asia that "Ireland is open for business".

He said it did not require a teacher in every school, and it was an example of how new technology could be used to allow pupils in several centres to learn at once through a "virtual classroom". Mr Murphy said his reforms were about preparing new entrants to primary school in six weeks' time for a workplace 20 years away.

Speaking at the MacGill Summer School immediately before the minister, Mr Murphy said that potential international investors must see reform now so that they could be assured that the education system was producing the "child of the future", who could fulfill the ever-changing needs of large multinationals.

He said Ireland could become a global hub for international services.

It was a market that was up for grabs and Ireland needed to grab it.

But investment would not come in Ireland unless people were educated to, and capable of delivering to, international standards, he said.

He said HP Ireland had been able to demonstrate within the HP family that there was a value for it to invest more in Ireland and that would continue "if we can innovate, incubate and globalise from our Irish base".

He said not all of Ireland's jobs could, or should, be created by the likes of HP "but equally we cannot develop the economy that we want without investment of its type".


Mr Murphy said that the underlying core education in Ireland -- in terms of literacy and many aspects of learning -- was strong, and Ireland rated fifth in 39 countries surveyed for reading literacy.

"However, the growing experience of employers is that this is no longer enough; that there are key weaknesses in the ground covered by those that graduate through the system here when compared with those at an equivalent level in other countries."

is it too much to ask? analysis, page 27

Irish Independent

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