Children now in 'sterile TV, Internet environment'


A senior third-level education figure has warned that some students are being brought up in a "sterile cultural environment" where the focus is almost exclusively on television and the Internet, rather than books and creative learning.

Dr Tom Collins, director of the Dundalk Institute of Technology, also said parental concern over safety meant children now had fewer opportunities to learn from their local community than ever before.

He said electronic media, while important, tended to emphasise solo learning rather than a team approach, and this could present serious problems down the line.

Everybody agreed with the need to train students in information technology, but this needed be matched with an emphasis on problem solving and decision making skills.

He said students nowadays were the first generation brought up with the Internet and the mobile phone, and while they were comfortable with these technologies it was also vital they learned from their local environment.

He said the exam system, with its emphasis on a single terminal exam at the end of the second-level system, needed to be changed, with more emphasis placed on project and portfolio work and assessment taking place on a "staggered basis".

He was speaking after delivering an address to the annual conference of the Irish Vocational Education Association in Cavan.

He said that while the Internet remained important, its main attribute was in transmitting information; it did not represent a "holistic" way of learning. It was also important for students to know how to use and select information, he said.

"In their own management practices, schools may well have to re-evaluate the discipline and control cultures which tend to predominate in second level schools in particular. There is a growing body of anecdotal evidence to the effect that current practices in this regard are under intense strain," he said.