Honours maths ‘mandatory’ for primary teachers

Quinn’s comments about ‘highly feminised profession’ prompt widespread disapproval

Comments by the Minister for Education about the ‘highly feminised’ primary teaching profession caused disapproval among delegates at the INTO’s annual conference.

Comments by the Minister for Education about the ‘highly feminised’ primary teaching profession caused disapproval among delegates at the INTO’s annual conference.

Tue, Apr 22, 2014, 18:00

Honours leaving certificate maths will become a minimum requirement for entry into teacher training, Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn said today.

In a comment which caused widespread disapproval among the 750 delegates at the annual conference of the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation, Mr Quinn referred to his “highly feminised audience and profession”.

“I also want to see Higher Level Mathematics in the Leaving Certificate becoming part of the minimum entry requirements for Initial Teacher Education and I’ll tell you why - to a highly feminised audience and profession - our research shows that young women who do the Junior Certificate and take Higher Level Mathematics comfortably in the Junior Certificate exam, drop Higher Level Mathematics when they do their Leaving Certificate because it is not a requirement. This is evidence-based research, and that’s why we want to see it happen.”

However general secretary of INTO Sheila Nunan provoked roars and cheers by opening her response to Mr Quinn’s speech with the words: “Sisters – hell hath no fury”.

While Ms Nunan said she was “quite agnostic about honours maths”, the “sisterhood” knew well the “simple sums of the primary school are: 30 into 1 teacher doesn’t go very easily”.

As delegates got to their feet in approval she continued “46 per cent cuts in assistant principal posts do not make for a good running of schools and 20, 40 and 86 pupils in a 2,3,4 teacher-school ... are not easily divided, so whatever way you multiply it, add it, subtract it, do the Pythagoras theorem, I have one message, Minister, the sum we’re looking for is an increase in the money that goes into education”.

Ms Nunan added: “It wasn’t the honours maths that made the Irish women the way they are today, let me tell you. It was the boys who did the honours maths led the country to ruination”.

Mr Quinn made his remarks as part of his speech which addressed the “need to continue to ensure that most entrants to initial teacher education come from the top 15 per cent of all leaving certificate students.

He later told reporters he had been paying tribute to women members of the audience who had been able to spot the lack of a requirement for higher maths and amend their study schedule accordingly.

He said his remarks were “a compliment” to the young women who make up 85 per cent of the primary teaching profession.

“They realise that they don’t need Higher Level maths for entry into the Initial Teacher Education and that requires more work than Ordinary Level so they drop it. I think that we need, in fact, to have our primary school teachers at the same level in mathematics that we require of them in the Irish language,” he said.

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