A passport to a future in teaching


WHILE there are many courses which offer their students the higher diploma qualification, the term H.Dip has come to refer in popular parlance to one course in particular - the Higher Diploma in Education, the passport to teaching currently taught in five of the country's universities.

The institutions in question are TCD, UCC, UCG, UCD and St Patrick's College, Maynooth, although the places available are capped each year according to the perceived need for teachers.

The demand for H.Dip places fell almost every year from the mid1970s until around 1990, according to John Hayden, secretary of the Higher Education Authority, which monitors the needs of the profession in association with the Department of Education and the other interested parties.

In 1994 the number of graduates reached its highest level for some years, with 1,006 diploma holders graduating, an increase of over 33 per cent on the previous year. There were over 800 H.Dip places in the country as a whole this year and, according to the HEA, this figure is unlikely to increase next year.

The demand for places still remains high. UCC, for example, received 900 applications for its 85 places this year.

"Before the quota was imposed the colleges were able to meet the demand for places," says Professor Aine Hyland, professor of education in UCC. "Demand has now risen to such a pitch that there has to be some control on the numbers. Part of the problem relates to the fact that some apply because they really, really want to be teachers but some apply because they cannot think of anything else to do in the current climate."

It is difficult for even the HEA to predict the need for teachers across a wide range of subjects. "There should be sufficient numbers for the jobs that arise, but there do seem to be shortages in some areas," says Dr John Marshall, head of the education department in UCG.

Demand is still considerable in the areas of science, physics, Irish and certain language areas, and qualified religious education teachers are also in short supply. Yet the employment prospects for H.Dip holders appear to be good, with around 70 per cent obtaining employment in the profession.

Of the 1994 H.Dip graduates who responded to the HEA's first destination survey, 5.7 per cent were in permanent teaching positions in Ireland, compared to almost 17 per cent of 1984 graduates. Fifty three per cent had obtained part time, temporary or substitute positions in 1994 - in 1984, the figure was 42 per cent.

It appears that permanent teaching posts are being taken up by teachers who have accumulated experience over a number of years, making it more difficult for newly qualified teachers to find a permanent post immediately after they graduate.

MEANWHILE, almost 13 per cent of 1994 graduates were teaching abroad, a slight increase on 1993 figures but still far lower than the 25 per cent reported in 1988.

The number of women in H.Dip courses still exceeds the number of men, although more men are now entering the profession, a trend that Aine Hyland sees as encouraging.

The profile of the profession is also changing. "Quite a lot are mature people," she says. "They have been teaching before or they come in as mature students."

Direct hands on experience in the classroom continues to lie at the heart of H.Dip training. UCG requires applicants for the course to have completed two weeks' full time experience in schools before registration and H.Dip students in each of the institutions can expect to spend some 100 hours in classrooms during the course.

Yet, teacher training is an ongoing process and training for the profession is lifelong. John Marshall sees it in terms of the three "I's" - initial training, induction and in service, with quality and relevance as the eternal priorities.

The challenge for H.Dip educators is to keep up with the developments at second level, an area Marshall describes as one of "dynamic change".