Teacher's Pet

The talk of education

The talk of education

How will the Government respond to the demand from the International Monetary Fund that a student-loan scheme be introduced within two years? Responding to Harry McGee’s report in this newspaper, the Department of Education said the issue had not been discussed with the IMF.

So what will happen? A clue comes in a terrific article in last week’s ‘Times Education Supplement’ by Matthew Reisz on the challenges facing the Irish higher-education system. Here’s what Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn had to say on student funding. While “not opposed in principle” to an undergraduate loan scheme, Quinn, according to the ‘TES’, is “just concerned how practical it is”, given that the Irish are “a very mobile people” and “you have to look at the repayment capacity. It’s a debate we have to have, but any such scheme needs to be tailored to the realities of the Irish diaspora.”

Some systems might amount to a “mammy’s immigration tax”, with young Irish unable to come home and see their mothers until they had paid off their student loans.

So does all this mean a student-loan scheme is off the cards? We’re not sure. Higher education desperately needs a long-term, sustainable funding base, but the Minister appears very reluctant to even address this issue.


The reduction in one-on-one counselling supports in secondary schools this year since Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn removed the ex-quota allocation for guidance counsellors in last year’s 2012.

Is there no limit to the number of new businesses offering online help to Leaving Cert students? With mocks.ieand onlinegrinds.ieapparently doing well, a new service, clevernotes.ie, surfaced last week. In a clever marketing wheeze, hacks were sent a school lunch of ham sandwiches and lemonade; the RSVP form doubled as a paper plane. The service will be launched next week.

We will be asking Leaving Cert students to road-test these online services shortly.


Number of physiotherapy graduates from the past two years in full-time employment, according to the Irish Society of Chartered Physiotherapists. Of the 114 graduates, close to 50 per cent are unemployed; many others are working in an unpaid capacity. Ten graduates have emigrated.

Now that’s we call a tough job. The Construction Industry Federation is trying to persuade students to opt for construction-related courses in college. Employment in the sector has fallen from close to 300,000 in 2007 to about 100,000 this year. CAO points for construction courses have also slumped. But the CIF says employers will be “crying out’’ for graduates when recovery takes hold. As the economy recovers, it says , there is a scope for the construction sector to grow and for new employment opportunities.

Email sflynn@irishtimes.com


Seán Flynn

Seán Flynn

The late Seán Flynn was education editor of The Irish Times