Non-Irish children perform better because their parents value education

 

TBH:I’m going to start my rant with the standard disclaimer: “I am not a racist but . . .”

I have noticed a marked difference between the Irish school children in my child’s school and their non-Irish classmates. The school recently held an essay competition and awards were given in a series of categories. I’d say 60 per cent of the winners were not Irish. The school is not 60 per cent non-national. More like 15 per cent. At the end-of-year prize-giving ceremony last summer there were so many non-Irish children picking up awards for maths, physics and French ahead of their Irish schoolmates it got me thinking.

Do I detect a commitment to education that is just not evident among many Irish anymore? Of course I can only speak for the school I know, but I did spot a similar trend in my child’s primary school.

There, the teaching staff would occasionally hold information evenings. I would always be there, as would the handful of parents of non-national children, but precious few other Dubliners. The principal privately bemoaned the fact that he had such trouble with participation from what he called “local” parents.

I often chat to the parents of non-national students in my child’s class (there are about six). While they come from a mix of ethnic backgrounds I find that all have the kind of attitude toward schooling that our parents’ generation held. They are focused on their children’s performance. Schooling is everything.

One father who has been in the country for 10 years told me how much he missed his home and his extended family but was not going to go back because he wanted his children to have the opportunity of being schooled in Ireland.

Another parent described how she spends an hour every evening, after her son’s homework is finished, working with him on maths to be sure that he stays on top of the subject. He’s only 12. She’s not earning very much but everything extra she has goes into extra classes for him – piano lessons, language tuition and computers.

I’m starting to think many in this generation of Irish parents take our schools for granted and have a casual attitude to their children’s education. They expect teachers to take care of everything and don’t get involved unless they have something to complain about.

Meanwhile, the parents I meet from other countries recognise good schooling for the privilege it is and get the most they possibly can from it. And, in my experience at least, it’s showing in their children’s results.


This column is designed to give a voice to those within the education system who wish to speak anonymously. Contributions welcome. Email sflynn@irishtimes.com