Taoiseach commits to radical education reforms


THE GOVERNMENT is determined to push through a radical programme of reform and change in our education system, Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said.

In an address as he launched the second Intel forum on Transforming Education in Ireland, Mr Kenny said recent Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development results “give us all reason to think carefully”.

The OECD data shows Ireland dropping down the international rankings on literacy and numeracy, but Mr Kenny said the Government is committed to reforms that will ensure the education system is fit for purpose.

The OECD results, he said, support the case for curricular reforms in maths and also in literacy.

Curricular and assessment change is difficult and we must look beyond sectoral interests if we are to implement reform, he added.

The results – published late last year – contradict the notion that Ireland enjoys a world-class education system. On reading levels, the country slipped from fifth place in 2000 to 17th position, the sharpest decline among 39 states surveyed. On maths, Ireland dropped from 16th to 26th place, the second steepest decline among participating countries. The Republic is now ranked below average in maths.

Mr Kenny said all students must be encouraged to be independent learners and to experience working creatively in teams. “My vision is for all Irish students to be able to leave school or university with the . . . skills to create their own jobs. To break new ground. To achieve the unimaginable.”

Mr Kenny said new ideas and new ways of doing things will breathe life back into the economy and our education system. “Change is always difficult for some but that is the challenge of the new Government, to manage and deliver on change . . . We have set a vision for a prosperous and fair country and we are busy making the decisions to get us there.”

The recent visits by Queen Elizabeth and US president Barack Obama had, he said, reminded the world of Ireland’s strengths. “They have shown a global audience what Ireland has to offer: our well-educated . . . resilient people.”

In thanking Intel for its contribution to the Irish economy, he said: “We will maintain Ireland’s 12.5 per cent rate of corporation tax which is a long-standing . . . strategy. Only yesterday the OECD highlighted the folly of increasing the rate.”