Cutting further education courses
A chara, – Following the changes to the pupil/teacher ratio announced in the Budget, the Further Education Sector will be forced to drastically cut the provision of courses to students seeking education and training from September.
The Further Education (FE) sector provides education to a cohort of students who are otherwise neglected by the system. These include post-Leaving Cert students not seeking the academic route, the unemployed, ex-construction workers, the home-educated, those who left the education system early, those looking to upskill or to change careers, immigrants, those with learning difficulties and others, marginalised in a myriad of ways.
The FE sector has provided education, training and a career path in the face of many difficulties over the years, in the main because it is not recognised as a separate, standalone segment. Instead it has been shoe-horned into the post-primary framework which is very unsatisfactory considering the diversity and age profile (18-65) of the students involved.
This is now being exacerbated by the reduction in teachers to the system.
What it means, in effect, is that those providing specialist skills will be fired and courses will collapse. The weakest students in the national education system will be hit, with reduced choice, help and valuable course places. They do not have any lobby group.
The FE system has been remarkably robust and adaptive in the face of Budget cuts; it has also been very cost effective. A student in an FE college can become a fully qualified, accredited veterinary nurse. There are cloud computing and sustainable energy courses. And it is because of part-time personnel, many of whom are working in industry as well, that such courses can be provided.
The FE sector provides the education, guidance counselling, learning support and pastoral care necessary to ensure its students are equipped to embrace jobs or degree courses. However, the radical changes being forced on us are a step too far. I am calling on the Minister for Education to reverse the pupil/teacher ratio changes. – Is mise,