Financial incentives would encourage more science graduates to teach, says Bruton

Winner of young scientist of the year title to be announced on Friday evening

 Minister For Education & Skills Richard Bruton  with Conor Walsh from Ardscoil Rís, Dublin, with his exhibit ‘The influence of music on cycling speed (and wheel rotations)’ at the BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition at the RDS, Dublin. Photograph:  Gareth Chaney/Collins

Minister For Education & Skills Richard Bruton with Conor Walsh from Ardscoil Rís, Dublin, with his exhibit ‘The influence of music on cycling speed (and wheel rotations)’ at the BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition at the RDS, Dublin. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

 

Minister for Education and Skills Richard Bruton has said “financial incentives” could be used to encourage more physics and chemistry graduates to pursue second-level teaching.

Speaking during a visit to the BT Young Science & Technology Exhibition at Dublin’s RDS, Mr Bruton said the shortage of science teachers needed to be addressed.

He also expressed concern about the low female participation in the Stem subjects of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

“We will look at a range of things. There could be financial incentives. There could be more discerning subject quotas [in teacher training colleges].

“As of now it’s simply a question of points and we don’t look at subjects. There may be an opportunity of shaping the throughput where more take up subjects where we have shortages, such as in physics and chemistry; wherever there are pinch points.”

The overall output of 3,000 teachers a year was meeting demand “but we want to make sure we get the right fit”, he said. This involved looking at ways of incentivising subject areas where there were weaknesses.

Responding to a Science Foundation Ireland warning of a shortage of Stem graduates, Mr Bruton said Ireland had one of the highest levels of uptake of science at third level in the EU.

“But certainly I’m in no way complacent,” he added.

Mr Burton said he was committed to a target of achieving a 20 per cent increase in all students taking physics and chemistry, and a 40 per cent increase in female students taking these subjects at second level.

The complexity of projects undertaken at the BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition (BTYSTE) was notable, Mr Bruton said.

Smartphones

Asked whether Ireland was likely to follow France, which is banning the use of smartphones in primary schools and exercise areas, Mr Bruton said curtailment of phone use in school settings was a matter for school boards.

His department had provided strong support to schools in the form of help on blocking content, protocols, and making available projects to promote safe use.

He acknowledged it was a matter of public concern, but most smartphone usage was outside school settings. Their aim was to promote a “responsible and discerning approach” and to provide young people with the tools to use social media responsibly.

Their policy, which had achieved success, was constantly reviewed by the department’s digital implementation group.

“You will want to see evidence to justify a ban. We learn from experience on the ground,” he added.

Meanwhile, tickets for the BTYSTE were sold out on Thursday, with demand for Friday very strong.

The winner, or winners, of the Young Scientist & Technologist of the year will be announced on Friday evening. The exhibition concludes on Saturday, by which time more than 60,000 people are expected to have attended.