Ireland well behind the curve in information technology teaching
Primary teachers should be rewarded for IT skills
24/10/11Mr.Malone the Principal for Colaiste Chiarain, a smart school where students use laptop computers and e-books for learning in Croom County Limerick.Pic Press 22.
International comparisons are making the Government’s boasts about Ireland ’s highly educated workforce hard to swallow when the evidence shows only average performance and a downward trajectory.
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) 2010 Pisa report on Irish education, for example, showed steep declines in performance in reading and maths. This is at a time when the education system needs to equip youngsters for the challenges ahead in a country that has 27 per cent youth unemployment.
Solving big problems requires big ideas, and nowhere are big ideas more needed at the moment than in our education system. It does not take a great deal of foresight to see that the next innovation in teaching will be digital.
However, current policies are not only keeping education behind the curve, they’re pushing our schools further back.
While infrastructure has improved in many schools, many teachers are not sufficiently well trained to make use of the technology in their classrooms. Investing time and effort into preparing classes digitally not only requires the confidence of good training, it also means risk.
In the face of a potentially wasted afternoon when their computer misbehaves or the projector refuses to start, many teachers prefer to stick to the simplicity of the whiteboard. Too often, ICT in primary schools has been about new ways to display class materials. Instead, we should be looking at teaching children to be advanced computer users.
Budget cuts and the Croke Park I & II public service pay deals cement the status quo. One of the most self- defeating policies enacted in response to the crisis was the withdrawal of any additional payments for the most qualified new teachers. No matter how high the demand, a new teacher employed with a master’s degree in, say, computer science, in addition to their teaching qualifications, will receive no additional salary.
There’s a moratorium on any new “
posts of responsibility” for information technology. And even when they were open, they were almost always awarded to the most senior teacher as opposed to the one with knowledge or interest in the area.
Putting off teachers’ increments for a few years as Croke Park II demands will save some money, but replacing increments with incentives would go much further. Last month Harvard University announced that it is offering its full introduction to programming class free online. Courses like this can even include online testing and certification.
Rewarding teachers who are willing to get meaningful qualifications and putting them to work should be the first principle for pay rises – not the time spent on the job. Without a reward for going “above and beyond”, it’s too easy to stick to the safe options.