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Report highlights how Irish second-level schools lag behind international average on range of key measures

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Irish second-level schools lag behind the international average across a range of key measures from having enough teachers and digital devices to the quality of buildings.

Wide disparities between Ireland and other countries across the developed world are highlighted in new report from the international think-tank, the OECD.

The Effective Policies, Successful Schools report is based on findings gathered for the OECD PISA 2018 test, which compared the educational performance of about 600,000 15-year-olds in 79 countries and economies.

Teacher unions say the findings confirm their claims about a lack of investment in Irish education, noting that the recent OECD Education at a Glance 2020 report ranked Ireland in last place out of 36 countries for investment in second-level education as a percentage of GDP.

Key findings of the latest report include:

  • 45pc of Irish students in schools where the principal reported that the capacity to provide instruction is hindered to some extent or a lot by lack of teaching staff compared to the OECD average of 27pc
  • 41pc of Irish students in schools where the principal reported that the capacity to provide instruction is hindered to some extent or a lot by inadequate or poor quality physical infrastructure, such as buildings, grounds, heating/ cooling systems, lighting and acoustic systems, compared to an average of 33pc.

The OECD also looked at schools’ digital infrastructure and found students in Ireland are less well-served than comparator countries.

Some of the main findings in this area relating to Irish students include:

  • 57pc in schools where the principal agreed or strongly agreed that the number of digital devices connected to the internet was sufficient, compared to the OECD average of 67pc
  • .45pc in schools where the principal agreed or strongly agreed that the number of digital devices for instruction was sufficient, compared to the OECD average of 59pc.
  • 45pc in schools where the principal reported that an effective online learning support platform was available compared to the OECD average of 54pc.
  • 47pc in schools where the principal agreed or strongly agreed that professional resources were available for teachers to learn how to use digital devices instruction compared to the OECD average of 65pc.

An important point made in the report is that equity in education, as measured by PISA performance scores in core subjects, is related to equity in access to an effective online learning support platform.

Association of Secondary Teachers’ Ireland (ASTI) president, Ann Piggott, said Covid-19 had brought to the forefront the importance of school infrastructural capacity and digital learning capacity.

Ms Piggott said: “The Government must prioritise funding for education in the October budget to upgrade school buildings and facilities so as to ensure that students and staff are protected and that every school has the capacity to revert to partial or full remote learning during this pandemic.

“A key demand of the ASTI has been the provision of laptops for students and teachers so that no individual is disadvantaged by lack of access to online learning if they are required to self-isolate or if their school is required to close due to Covid-19.”

Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) general secretary Michel Gillespie said the findings were “hardly surprising given the continuing failure to invest appropriately in Irish education.”

He pointed to a “recruitment and retention crisis in second level schools for a number of years now, mainly due to the scourge of the two-tier pay system which sees those appointed after 1st January 2011 earn less than their colleagues.”

Mr Gillespie said “now more than ever, with a range of current and future challenges, an adequately-funded education system must be seen as central to the country’s future. “


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