Low achievers in key subjects increasing, says EU report


FURTHER QUESTIONS about the quality of the Irish education system have been raised by a European report.

The review says the number of low achievers in reading, maths and science has increased from 11 per cent in 2000 to 17 per cent in 2009.

In another critical finding, it says Ireland was the worst performer when it comes to increasing its total of maths, science and technology graduates, up only 1 per cent between 2000 and 2008. In the same period the number of female science graduates in Ireland actually declined.

The key report from the European Commission is another blow for the reputation of the Irish educational system, once commonly labelled as “world class”. Last year, the OECD ranked Ireland as average or below average in literacy, science and maths. It found up to one quarter of Irish teenagers were functionally illiterate.

In one encouraging finding, the commission report found Ireland has more 30- to 34-year-olds (49 per cent of the total) with a third level qualification than anywhere else in the EU.

Progress was also made in reducing the number of early school leavers, down from 14.6 per cent in 2002 to 11.3 per cent in 2009. The report also states that:

Regarding early childhood education, in 2008, only 72 per cent of Irish children between age four and the starting age of compulsory education had participated in early childhood education compared to 100 per cent in France and 99.5 per cent in Belgium and the Netherlands.

Regarding low achievers, the share of low achievers in Ireland in terms of reading, maths and science had actually increased from 11 per cent in 2000 to 12.1 per cent in 2006 and 17.2 per cent in 2009. Finland was the best performer, with only 8.1 per cent.

Regarding adult education, Ireland had fallen below the EU target of 12.5 per cent participation in adult learning by 2010. The rate fell from 7.4 per cent in 2005 to 6.3 per cent in 2009. The best performers were Denmark (31.6 per cent), Sweden (22.2 per cent) and Finland (22.1 per cent).

The report on EU states’ progress towards shared European objectives in education covers EU members plus Croatia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Iceland, Turkey, Norway and Liechtenstein.

Labour MEP Proinsias de Rossa said the report highlights the urgent need for the national literacy and numeracy strategy set out in the new programme for government.“Given the very constrained budgetary situation the new Government has inherited, it is important that we work closely with our European partners on these challenges – there is much that we can learn for example from countries like Finland, the Netherlands and Estonia, that perform much better than Ireland in the key area of literacy.”