Cog Notes: Could a third-level savings bond solve the fees problem?

The idea has been likened to an ‘SSIA for higher education’

Could third-level savings bonds be sold politically?

Peter Cassells, chairman of the expert group on third-level funding, was giving little away at a recent meeting of the Oireachtas Education Committee. The group has published an initial report on the scale of the funding challenge, and will release a second report benchmarking the Irish performance against international standards before the summer. Only then, according to Cassells, will the group turn to the key question of how to fund higher education in the future.

A few years ago the Australian student-loans model was in vogue, but political observers believe its time has gone; the notion of lumbering significant debt on the next generation is not for sale in the current climate.

One idea gaining traction in policy circles is to create a special savings bond for parents that can be redeemed when each child hits college-going age to cover the cost of fees. While very much at the drawing-board stage, the idea has been likened to an “SSIA for higher education”.

Parents would earn interest, receiving a matching State payment, tax relief or a combination of such incentives, thus taking the edge off the formal conclusion of the “free fees” era. Whether or not it flies, Cassells’s group needs ideas, and fast.


The deficit of play in society

The role of play in education is among the themes of this year's Irish Unschooling Conference to be held at NUI Galway on Saturday, May 16th.

Keynote speakers include Dr Peter Gray, an evolutionary psychologist and research fellow at Boston College, who has explored the deficit of play in modern society.

Other lectures will focus on the latest research into parental schooling and how to manage children with special needs through home education. Tickets cost €17.50 for adults (€10 for students).

Learning through music

Good luck to the finalists in this year's Waltons Music for Schools Competition at the National Concert Hall on May 11th. Music vouchers to the value of €10,000 are up for grabs, but programme co-director Aideen Walton says the real winners are participating schools, which have "shared and learned from each other". The competition is open to all genres of music, from choirs to rock bands, and that has helped to change attitudes, she says.

"From teacher feedback, in both primary and post-primary schools, we have discovered the traditional gender imbalance when it comes to music uptake – more girls than boys – is changing when the boys have seen their peers perform in the competition context."

Writing competition

To mark Africa Day, Irish Aid has teamed up with The Irish Times on an Africa-themed writing competition seeking short stories or poems from children and adults. Primary school children can submit a piece of up to 250 words, and secondary school students of up to 500 words. Closing date for entries is May 15th, and the winning stories will be published on on May 24th.

Joe Humphreys

Joe Humphreys

Joe Humphreys is an Assistant News Editor at The Irish Times and writer of the Unthinkable philosophy column