Irish pupil-teacher ratio highest in EC


Pupil-teacher ratios in Irish primary schools are "at the bottom of the international pile," says the Irish National Teachers Organisation. Only Turkey, Mexico and Korea are worse among OECD countries. The primary teachers' union was breaking an embargo by commenting yesterday on the OECD report Education at a Glance, a comparative study of educational indicators in 29 OECD countries, to be published in Paris this afternoon. The OECD is understood to be angry at the timing of the INTO's statement.

The INTO general secretary, Senator Joe O'Toole, said the report provided "clear evidence to support the INTO's continuing call for smaller class sizes and increased funding for the running of primary schools."

The OECD report shows that the ratio of pupils to teachers in Irish primary schools in 1995 was 23.6 to one, the highest in the EU. This compared with 21.9 to one in the UK; 20.7:1 in Germany; 19.4:1 in France; 17.2:1 in the US; 16.4:1 in Spain; 12.3:1 in Sweden; 10.6:1 in Italy; and 9.5:1 in Norway.

The pupil-teacher ratio in second-level schools was also poor, worse than all OECD states except Turkey, Korea, Canada, Mexico, New Zealand and the US.

In Ireland the ratio at second level was 16.2 pupils per teacher.

Mr O'Toole said even OECD figures for primary schools did not tell the whole story, with shortages of back-up staff and remedial teachers leading to an average class size of around 27 and more than 2,000 classes of over 40 pupils.

He said it was "an amazing tribute" to Irish primary teachers that the reading and mathematical levels of their pupils aged nine and 13 were well above the international average. This "seems to give the lie to the recent OECD survey which indicated that one in four of the Irish population is experiencing a reading difficulty."

Mr O'Toole said the real issue to emerge was the low level of primary school funding, showing that 3.6 times more per student was spent at third level in the Republic and 1.6 times more per student at post-primary level.