Leftfield: Teachers and parents set out a vision for the future of education

Parents, teachers and schools need a coherent voice on how education can improve and develop, with the experiences of all secondary students at heart

Formulating the future: the National Parents’ Council Post-Primary wants to enhance second-level education. Photograph: Phil Boorman/Cultura/Getty

Formulating the future: the National Parents’ Council Post-Primary wants to enhance second-level education. Photograph: Phil Boorman/Cultura/Getty

 

A 2020 Vision for Education sets out an ambitious, yet practical, plan for enhancing second-level education in Ireland. The document was recently launched by the Post-Primary Education Forum (PPEF), a coalition of parents, teachers and school leaders and managers.

The forum recognises that in these difficult times it is even more vital that parents, teachers and schools adopt a coherent voice on how education should improve and develop and have a shared vision of where we want to go and how we want to get there.

The PPEF members are from the National Parents Council Post-Primary, the teacher unions, and the school leaders and management bodies. As education practitioners and end users, we share a belief that those most closely involved in the second-level system, every day, are best placed to formulate a feasible vision with the educational outcomes and experiences of all students at heart.

As a parent, I’m very happy to see a focus on the needs of second-level students in the recommendations of A 2020 Vision for Education . The first calls for establishing a Learners’ Charter, the case for which is both evident and urgent.

This charter would set minimum rights for students in areas such as curriculum, student voice and welfare, teaching and learning, and resources. Students and parents should have clarity on what to expect from the second-level education system.

The report emphasises the need to increase parents’ participation in second-level education, giving them a firm and consistent role in education policy development nationally, as well as adequate opportunities for involvement at ground level.

Research shows parental engagement at second level can have positive outcomes for parents, their children, the school community and the wider community.

Schools today are much more open to parents than in the past. Many schools are innovative and progressive in ensuring parents feel welcomed and encouraged to participate in the school community. We must build on these achievements.

A key recommendation in the report is for a commitment to increase investment in education to 7.5 per cent of GDP and maintain that as a minimum.

We call for a Green Paper on education to chart the direction of Irish second-level education in the next 10 to 15 years.

It isn’t enough for Government to look only to itself for such a Green Paper, but it should start with widespread consultation with those directly involved in the delivery of that education: parents, teachers, students and school management – in other words, those of us who make up the PPEF, are committed to genuine dialogue with the Department of Education, and have the skills to improve the education service for all.

If the Minister grasps the opportunity to cement this constructive partnership approach, it will bring consensus on workable strategies and innovations, build mutual respect and trust between the education partners and ultimately benefit society.

We believe A 2020 Vision for Education articulates a balanced approach to educational development, based on the daily realities of students, teachers and schools.

The vision we articulate is important as it gives voice to the concerns of those at the frontline in schools. National education policymakers have much to add to the debate on improving education, but tend to take a macro perspective attuned to realities other than those of educational practitioners and their students.

Too much emphasis on the macro policy perspectives can sideline the quality of learning environments in policymakers’ vision.

It is important the education debate in Ireland doesn’t become the exclusive property of business interests and of economists. Frontline participants in education must be included to ensure students and their experiences remain at the heart of the discussion about educational experience.


Jim Moore is a former president of the National Parents’ Council Post -Primary .
A 2020 Vision for Education is at npcpp.ie