Making your mind up: Why choose education?

Public perception of teachers in Ireland is quite different to many other countries

A two-tier salary structure is one factor encouraging Irish teachers to move abroad for work. Photograph: iStockphote/Getty Images.

A two-tier salary structure is one factor encouraging Irish teachers to move abroad for work. Photograph: iStockphote/Getty Images.

 

Ireland is in the midst of a teacher recruitment crisis. At secondary schools, we don’t have enough Irish, science, maths or European language teachers. Primary schools are struggling to find qualified staff and cannot manage to get enough substitute teachers.

Teacher unions point to a two-tier salary structure that sees teachers appointed after 2011 placed on a different pay scale than their colleagues and say that this is one factor encouraging Irish teachers to move abroad for work. At the time of writing, the Government was locked in negotiations with the teacher unions to address this thorny issue.

The public perception of teachers in Ireland is quite different to that in many other countries. Here, the points requirements to get into teaching are quite high and it is seen as a prestigious profession. Yes, there’s the holidays, but there’s also a lot of paperwork and teachers are held more accountable than they were in the past.

Primary teachers study for an undergraduate degree at one of the teacher training colleges; these include St Patrick’s Drumcondra and the Church of Ireland college of education (both at DCU’s Institute of Education), Catholic teacher training college Mary Immaculate (Limerick), the Marino Institute of Education in Dublin or the secular Froebel department of primary and early childhood education at Maynooth University.

Different path

There’s a different path to becoming a post-primary teacher. For the most part, they train through the postgraduate certificate in education (PGCE) – a two-year postgraduate qualification whereby they study pedagogy (theories and practice in teaching) and specialise in two post-primary subjects. Trinity, NUI Galway, DCU and UL are among the colleges that offer the certificate. DCU offers an undergraduate science teacher-training course, UL has an undergraduate physical education teacher course and St Angela’s College in Sligo prepares home economics teachers.

There’s also Hibernia, a private college that combines distance, online and some classroom learning; it has earned itself a solid reputation and is well-respected by school managers. They offer postgraduate primary and post-primary teacher training courses.

This been a game-changer for those who decide to become primary teachers only after completing their undergraduate degree and means that a student could, for instance, study an undergraduate business, veterinary or science degree before deciding to change tack at postgrad level.

Teacher salaries start in and around €36,000 and rise over the course of a teacher’s career, but the restoration of middle management posts which allow promotional opportunities has been happening quite slowly. The three main teaching unions – the INTO, ASTI and TUI – have more details on their websites.