Saturday 18 November 2017

In my opinion - Michael Moriarty, General Secretary Education and Training Boards Ireland (ETBI)

'Teachers and trainers in our schools and educational services are to be commended for their capacity to meet and take on this challenge of change.' (Stock picture)
'Teachers and trainers in our schools and educational services are to be commended for their capacity to meet and take on this challenge of change.' (Stock picture)

Michael Moriarty

When you're in the middle of a revolution you don't always see the extent of the changes around you or appreciate what they will lead to.

That's what we will attempt to do today and tomorrow when the annual conference of Education and Training Boards Ireland (ETBI) will review the seismic shift in educational planning over the past 20 years and attempt to anticipate what will happen into the future.

There is no doubt that we need to plan for the formidable challenges ahead. The most obvious is the rising enrolments at all levels of the education system. It cannot be a case of providing more of the same as there is a much greater diversity of backgrounds today in our schools which have to be welcoming and inclusive. They also have to prepare young people for a world characterised by rapid change where the skills of the past may no longer meet the needs of the future.

Technological changes will sweep away many of the old certainties in employment, communications, the environment, agriculture, health, education and society itself. Equipping young people for this brave and frightening new world will require leadership, understanding and flexibility on the part of education providers.

We are fortunate that much of the groundwork has been done in recent years by creating the structures needed to facilitate educational transformation in this country. I was privileged to serve as general secretary of ETBI and its predecessor, the Irish Vocational Education Association, over the past two decades when these new structures were being put in place.

Public service reform is one of those clichés that politicians often promise but it has been achieved in our sector with significant results. Nobody said it would be easy marrying two different cultures but reducing 33 VECs to 16 education and training boards and then merging them with the Training Division of the former FÁS has been a success.

This means we are well positioned to deliver on former Minister Ruairí Quinn's hopes of a world class further education and training (FET) sector. Various FET reports and strategy documents have been published. Post Leaving Certificate courses are being upgraded and we now have a target of providing 50,000 apprenticeship and traineeship places by 2020.

At junior cycle, change has been slower than originally hoped for but has begun this year with English in the new Junior Cycle Profile of Achievement. As teachers get more comfortable with the notion of an element of school-based assessment they, and their pupils, will benefit from the broadening of assessment tools and the measurement of additional attributes and skills.

Certainly, there has been no shortage of ambition and planning, while the focus on accountability, transparency, outcomes and outputs is now at an unprecedented level.

The objective of such reform is to ensure that the students in Ireland's schools and the clients of Ireland's education and training services have the best possible educational experiences.

Teachers and trainers in our schools and educational services are to be commended for their capacity to meet and take on this challenge of change. These are the people who will realise the ambition to achieve the "best education system in Europe" that has now been set as a national target.

Planning needs both partnership and perseverance at the implementation stage. But implementation needs to be resourced with targeted investment. The education and training sector will deliver on current Minister for Education Richard Bruton's admirable vision of "best in Europe", but only if resources are put in place.

Michael Moriarty, General Secretary Education and Training Boards Ireland (ETBI)

Irish Independent

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