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UK and America lag far behind Ireland on education


‘It is up to third-level colleges – not secondary schools – to teach students research skills’

‘It is up to third-level colleges – not secondary schools – to teach students research skills’

‘It is up to third-level colleges – not secondary schools – to teach students research skills’

Barbara Scully's article (Irish Independent, May 6) regarding our rigid education system left me wondering whether Ms Scully was writing with tongue in cheek.

She wrote: "I hear friends in the United Kingdom and the United States talk of the education of their teenagers and wonder how we in Ireland have managed to get so stuck."

Is Ms Scully for real? Has she reviewed the OECD's latest Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) results for the USA and the UK? Both countries lag far behind our little country when it comes to all areas of the PISA test. We should copy the US and the UK education systems only if we want our students to drop down the PISA ratings.

Might I suggest Ms Scully read the works of Ken Robinson, Diane Ravitch, Dr Peter Mortimore, Stephen J Ball and Amanda Ripley, to mention but a few, who have clearly shown that the UK and US education systems are having major difficulties?

A few weeks ago, some teachers in Atlanta in the US were jailed for falsifying exam scores. This is a result of school-based assessment and pressure to outperform other schools.

It is interesting to note that Harriet Alexander, a reporter with the 'Daily Telegraph' in the UK , writing in December 2013, had this to say about the OECD education report: "Ireland's emphasis on pastoral care keeps standards high. Ireland has achieved high rankings in the OECD literacy league tables and bounced back from a dramatic dip in the last survey. Ireland, so delighted with its storytelling heritage, is second only to Finland in European literacy rankings."

Finally, Ms Scully's quote from the head of a third-level institution, in which he stated: "many lecturers have to spend too long teaching the 'freshers' how to research, how to analyse information and how to think before they can begin to educate them in their chosen field", is hilarious.

It is in third-level colleges that young students learn the skills of research and free thinking. Does this college head want the secondary school system to give all the students a degree before they leave secondary school?

Dr David O Grady

Killarney, Co Kerry


Noonan's job comments

Finance Minister Michael Noonan's comments about the unemployed, while not entirely untrue, do not apply in all cases. Social exclusion in this country is at an all-time high, and many are so sick of looking for work that they give up - who could blame them?

In any case, they have been out of work so long that any employer would take little or no interest.

Others still have had problems with former employers that are causing great difficulties for them in ever finding work again. Blacklisting is a major problem for some long-term unemployed people.

Mr Noonan should know that almost no one is allergic to money, if the opportunity presents itself.

Maurice Fitzgerald

Shanbally, Co Cork


Michael Noonan promises everyone a job by 2018; it's a pity he doesn't specify how many of these will be minimum wage.

His comments about those who will never work due to an allergy to work should be passed on to his colleague Joan Burton, whose department facilitates this culture by making it more profitable for the unemployed to claim welfare payments rather than to work.

This Government and its predecessors are responsible for having created this culture from a system that was initially in place to help families through a short-term rough patch rather than becoming a way of life.

David Bradley

Drogheda, Co Louth


Coalition's two-tier recovery

As the general election draws ever closer it is clear that the Labour Party is under pressure.

Desperate to deflect attention away from the negative impact of its decisions on ordinary people, it has turned misrepresentation into a new art form.

Not satisfied with misrepresenting its own record in Government, it has turned its new-found craft to misrepresenting the position of its opponents. Environment Minister Alan Kelly's confused article on Sinn Féin's economic policy (Irish Independent, May 7) is a case in point.

His claim that Sinn Féin in government would penalise the lowest-paid workers is absolutely false. Low and middle-income earners have been crippled by Fine Gael and Labour.

The abolition of the PRSI ceiling, increase in VAT and motor tax and introduction of the property tax and water charge has significantly increased the tax bill of ordinary workers. Failure to help those in mortgage distress or those struggling with spiralling rents has further increased financial pressure on ordinary families.

Contrary to the Government's claim that the income tax and USC changes in Budget 2015 benefited ordinary workers, the real winners were those at the top.

According to the ESRI, only the top 40pc of households actually benefited from the last budget, with the greatest benefits going to the top 10pc. The rest of us were actually net losers.

Fine Gael and Labour's four budgets have been the most unfair since the recession.

Not satisfied with crippling low and middle-income workers during their first term of office, Fine Gael and Labour want voters to give them another five years.

Last week's Spring Statement promised tax cuts for the wealthy, below inflation spending on public services and rigid adherence to EU fiscal rules.

These policies will copper fasten the unfair, two-tier recovery now under way.

They are the same policies agreed by Fianna Fáil with the Troika in 2010 and enthusiastically implemented by Fine Gael and Labour since 2011. They are the policies that have led to massive emigration and the increase in low-paid, precarious employment.

They are the policies that perpetuate the crises in our health, education and community services.

They have nothing to offer the hundreds of thousands of struggling families across the State.

Fine Gael and Labour believe that it is possible to reduce the overall tax take, adhere to draconian EU fiscal rules and increase investment in front-line health, education and community services.

This is 'Father Ted' economics.

Under their plan, high earners will be the winners while those of us on low incomes and dependent on public services will be the big losers.

Cllr Eoin O Broin

Sinn Féin

South Dublin


Being a Catholic in 2015

Brendan Butler's letter (Irish Independent, May 7) is without doubt one of the best I have seen. It certainly resonates with me in a big way. It gives me great consolation to know that I am not alone in how I feel about being a Catholic in 2015.

I am trusting the decency of the Irish people will result in the passing of the same-sex marriage equality referendum. I hope I will not be disappointed.

Margaret Lyng

New Ross, Co Wexford

Irish Independent