Question: I’m a law graduate with fluent Irish and would like to switch professions and start teaching. I’m currently studying for a master’s in Irish at UCD. I would happily complete the two-year professional master’s in education, but I can’t get a definitive answer from the Teaching Council over whether I am eligible. What can I do?
Answer: You're not alone. I have had several queries from individuals with qualifications who have difficulties getting answers from the Teaching Council over what more thy need to do to enter the teaching profession.
A recent one, for example, is from a physics teacher in Scotland who moved here, but was told their qualification – a degree in applied physics – was not suitable for second-level teaching.
Another is from an individual who has has lived in Spain for several years teaching English and learning Spanish. This person wants to teach Spanish here, but has had difficulty getting confirmation on whether their previous qualifications would make them eligible to complete a professional master's in education (PME), the qualification now required to become a recognised secondary teacher in Ireland.
This frustration is born out of a misunderstanding of the role of the Teaching Council. It's not there to support or encourage aspiring graduates into teaching. The Teaching Council won't sit down with an individual and explore the synergy between an existing set of qualifications held by an individual, and the gap between that and that required to secure recognition. There is no place for recognition of prior learning (RPL) in the Teaching Council registration process.
For example, an engineer using advanced mathematics for a decade cannot use that expertise as evidence of competency to teach maths in a second-level school setting. They might as well have been operating as a tour guide in the Canaries, for all the difference it makes
Why the lack of engagement? It’s simply that, as presently constituted, the Teaching Council has no role is engaging with those aspiring to teach. They are gatekeepers to maintain standards adopted by the Irish education system for each subject taught in our schools.
They approach is similar, if you like, to checking tickets at concerts: you either have one that the scanner recognises as valid, or you don’t get in. It is totally black and white.
The problem is that the Irish education system is currently struggling to fill posts in physics and chemistry, Irish and other continental languages, among others.
The application numbers to the PME have fallen sharply. These courses are expensive and there are high salaries now on offer across the economy in a booming market.
The solution to the problem of attracting motivated graduates across all disciplines may lie in supporting them when they explore their pathway to a recognised qualification, rather that turning them away.
We may need to rethink our whole approach to recruiting motivated talented graduates who after entering the workforce in another field discover a love of teaching.