Teacher training reform on track

Substantial progress has been made in implementing radical changes to teacher training – according to a forthcoming report from…

Substantial progress has been made in implementing radical changes to teacher training – according to a forthcoming report from the Higher Education Authority.

But the plans are meeting stiff resistance from a minority of colleges – principally Mary Immaculate College, Limerick – which oppose any merger with the University of Limerick.

The changes, proposed by an expert group led by Finnish academic Dr Pasi Sahlberg, would see the number of teacher training colleges reduced from 19 to six – the most radical change to teacher training in the history of the State.

Obstacles remain

The HEA highlights progress already but points to obstaclesstill to be overcome.

These include the fact Mary Immaculate College is demanding “the continuance of the existing MIC structure and governance” and funding autonomy, while UCD is opposing plans for its teacher education to be delivered at the Marino Institute in Dublin.

In addition, Galway/Mayo IT Letterfrack and St Patrick’s, Thurles, are opposing plans to discontinue teacher education at their colleges. St Angela’s, Sligo, is opposing a plan to relocate its B Ed degree course to Galway, the report states. The review is based on reports requested by the HEA from colleges on progress towards implementation of the Sahlberg report.

The HEA stresses these “are early-stage responses’’ as the legal and resource implications have to be fully examined. The HEA appears confident issues raised by colleges can be overcome.

In an encouraging finding, the report says the protection of ethos – raised by the Church of Ireland College of Education and other colleges – is being “constructively worked through . . . within a pluralist model that respects diversity of traditions, including the Catholic, Church of Ireland and secular university traditions”. The HEA notes the most radical and complex proposal – a new Institute of Education – bringing together St Patrick’s, Drumcondra; Mater Dei; the Church of Ireland College of Education; and DCU – is on course.

Sahlberg report

The authority also notes how UCD fully endorses the creation of an Institute of Education on a single site but argues the panel’s noting of “the possibility of it being centred at Marino” is inconsistent with findings in the Sahlberg report that it should be university-based and facilitated in a university setting.

Progress from top to bottom

1. UCC-Cork Institute of Technology: "Recommendations have been accepted and are being implemented."

2. NUI Maynooth-Froebel College: "The two institutions are well advanced in implementation of the decision.''

3. DCU-St Patrick's College Drumcondra-Mater Dei Institute of Education and Church of Ireland College of Education: The recommendation to merge four higher education institutes has been accepted by all parties and implementation is progressing well.

5. NUI Galway-St Angela's College Sligo: "Both institutions have accepted the recommendation in so far as it relates to the integration of St Angela's provision into a broader teacher education setting within the university.''

6. UL -Mary Immaculate College- LIT. The report recommends the "integration of MIC into UL".  MIC envisages the continuance of MIC, with funded autonomy, under its independent governance structures as a university-level Catholic college of education and the liberal arts.

7. Galway/Mayo IT and St Patrick's Thurles: GMIT states the discontinuance of teacher education at Letterfrack would jeopardise the Letterfrack campus.The HEA will consider some limited form of contracted provision for St Patrick's.

Seán Flynn

Seán Flynn

The late Seán Flynn was education editor of The Irish Times