Irish education has ‘long way to go’ to become world class
Quinn says assertion Ireland has one of the best education systems ‘based on no evidence’
Minister of Education Ruairi Quinn at St Patrick’s College Drumcondra today. He said a belief that the Irish education system was among the best in the world was an ‘assertion based on no evidence whatsoever other than something of a feelgood factor that was communicated to us at home by the greater Irish Diaspora who felt, for whatever reason, that it was better than what their children were experiencing in other parts of the world.’
He said before this goal was achieved it had to be recognised that “the assertion that was so frequently trotted out in the past, but which blatantly wasn’t true, was that we had one of the best education systems in the world”.
Mr Quinn said this was an “assertion based on no evidence whatsoever other than something of a feelgood factor that was communicated to us at home by the greater Irish diaspora who felt, for whatever reason, that it was better than what their children were experiencing in other parts of the world.”
Mr Quinn was speaking ahead of the opening of the Fifth National Conference on Research in Mathematics in Ireland (MEI5) at St Patrick’s College Drumcondra, Dublin.
The Minister also said he will respect whatever decision secondary teachers make when they are balloted next week on the Haddington Road agreement.
Industrial action could be initiated in second-level schools as early as next week if teachers vote to reject the deal.
Ballot papers have been issued to more than 30,000 members of the ASTI and TUI unions this week. Teachers are being asked to vote on the deal brokered in May and already backed by the primary teachers’ union the INTO and other public sector unions.
“It’s a matter for themselves. They’ve had the summer to reflect on changes in the system,” Mr Quinn said.
“Most other people in the public sector have responded to the Haddington Road agreement and the opportunities and the constraints that it offers at a time when everybody in our country has been affected by the disasters of the previous government.
“But it’s a matter for them to make their own choice and their own decision and I will respect whatever decision they make.”
With regard to pupil/teacher ratios, Mr Quinn said there had been “no change” since he came into office in the ratio for primary school pupils.
“What has been the big change is the massive increase in numbers, which we have anticipated.”
He said there had been a “kind of car-crash moment” two years ago when he had seen projections of pupil numbers.
There was a €2.2 billion capital building programme to increase capacity and this year marked the second in the programme to get rid of prefabs in schools, he said.
These were a “temporary” solution and were “not desirable”, particularly in winter.
“We have, as you saw, 22 per cent of all of the pupils in classes of over 30, which makes it very difficult for teachers to try and get around to everybody, particularly if the class is mixed in terms of background and different ability.