Monday 11 December 2017

Kenny presses minister on crisis in maths

Quinn admits teacher survey is not complete

Edel O'Connell, Katherine Donnelly and Fionnan Sheahan

TAOISEACH Enda Kenny last night heaped pressure on Education Minister Ruairi Quinn to tackle the crisis of unqualified maths teachers in schools.

Mr Quinn earlier admitted his department is yet to get a clear picture as to the number of unqualified maths teachers working in the country's second-level schools.

Mr Kenny later waded into the row on the teaching of maths -- admitting his surprise that schools were hiring maths teachers who were not qualified.

The Taoiseach also said employers have expressed their dissatisfaction to him about the standard of students emerging from the education system.

"I was speaking to some businessperson the other night, looking for 35 IT people now, and cannot get anybody," he said.

Mr Kenny referred to an official survey showing that three out of every 10 maths teachers are not qualified.

Out of 2,000 maths teachers surveyed, 1,400 are fully qualified but another 596 have only some maths studies and 49 have no third-level maths qualifications at all.

"I find it somewhat unusual that the employers in these cases, which are the boards of management and principal teachers, would not have queried the actual qualifications for teaching mathematics in the first instance," he said.

Mr Quinn admitted a recent survey on maths teachers' qualifications was not complete.

Responding to mounting pressure as a result of deep-rooted problems in the teaching of maths, Mr Quinn said every school that failed to reply to the survey would now be contacted.

The survey by the Teaching Council claimed 30pc of secondary school maths teachers did not have a full qualification.

However, the Irish Independent learnt that just one-third of the country's schools took part in the hastily assembled research, raising questions over the validity of the findings.

Previous research had indicated almost half of maths teachers were not fully qualified

Mr Quinn said he was committed to establishing exactly how many math teachers had qualifications. "I am going to call on each school to submit data to this end as soon as possible," he added.

Mr Quinn was speaking as thousands of Junior Cert students received their results yesterday. Overall results stayed steady, but fewer than half of candidates sat higher-level maths, making it the least popular exam subject.

Problem

It came on the same day as a new report from the international think-tank, the OECD, which revealed how Irish primary school pupils spend less time studying maths and science than their international counterparts.

Mr Quinn admitted there were serious issues in the educational system which needed to be addressed.

"We have a problem in our education system that needs to be fixed. We have been codding ourselves that we have this wonderful education system -- elements of it are spectacular.

"But a lot of it is so so, and some of it has slipped by the way because of a certain degree of complacency owing to various ministers of education."

The new president of Engineers Ireland, PJ Rudden, said the crisis over performance in maths was "a total systemic failure in national education structures", adding that it would take a decade or more to embed new learning processes and implement reform.

Irish Independent

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