Monday 18 December 2017

Shift education focus to our strengths, says expert

STRATEGY: Emma Godsil
STRATEGY: Emma Godsil

Constance Harris

WE'VE been declared the most entrepreneurial-minded country in Europe.

We had an education system that used to be rated as one of the best in the world.

However, in the last 10 years, many international institutions have told us we aren't as good as think we are. That we need to revise our practices, consider the marketplace's needs, and reorganise our education system and its focus to produce a better, sharper, more adaptable-minded workforce.

But, as Ruairi Quinn is experiencing, that is a Herculean task as cost and habits of a lifetime mount up against any changes he might desire to enact. Private education has become a growing business as parents and students seek an alternative strategy.

But as any parent knows, the Holy Grail is the Leaving Cert and that is still within the old way of thinking remit. It is still the unavoidable hurdle. The bar by which most of us are judged and our futures are determined. It's a two-year sentence for both parents and children, which doesn't necessarily deliver what a young person needs.

Apart from hard work and study – which doesn't always get results – is there another way a student might triumph when against this monolith?

Next Wednesday, at 7.30pm in the Royal Marine Hotel, Dun Laoghaire, Godsil Education is hosting a free talk on 'Motivating your son or daughter to Leaving Cert success'.

Godsil Education, founded by Arthur Godsil, the former headmaster of St Andrews College, Blackrock, and his daughter, Emma Godsil, are part of a new wave of industry experienced specialists who are working to change the educational model, making it more student-centric and stronger.

Ms Godsil explained that our educational system focuses on areas where a student is weakest: "The mindset is to work on areas where a student is weak, say getting a D, to working hard to try and get them to a C," she explained. "But why are we not looking at their C+ or B (areas) and working with them to get an A?

"Most of us go to where our strengths take us to. Most people are drawn to work in areas they enjoy. A lot of the natural pathways in our brain are formed by the time we are 13-14. Why not focus instead on growing where a person is strong, to be even stronger? Growing them in an area they enjoy and have a natural inclination for?

"Think of Malcolm Gladwell's 10,000-hour rule – to be good at anything you have to put in time and considerable effort. If a student has a natural inclination and is willing and able to improve in that area, shouldn't we support them in that? Rather than focusing on an area they feel weak, and thus undermine their confidence every time they are forced to work on something they feel no confidence in?"

It is a radical approach when you consider our education system. But it seems like common sense.

The talk next week for parents was prompted by Mr Godsil's knowledge that most parents don't get the guidance and motivational support they need to support their children in gaining the most from the Leaving Cert.

"We advise schools, boards, governments and industry on educational matters," Ms Godsil explained.

"But the first and most important teachers in a child's life are its parents. We want to support them, too."

For further information or register for a ticket for the free event, see or email

Sunday Independent

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