Teacher training to be reformed
Teacher training in Ireland is set to be transformed with fewer colleges, a sharper research focus and more modern governance structures.
The expected changes could signal the end of a long tradition in which both the Catholic Church and the Church of Ireland controlled teacher training colleges
Under one of the recommendations, St Patrick’s College in Dublin would be merged with Dublin City University and the Mater Dei Institute in a new centre based on the St Pat’s campus. The Church of Ireland College of Education (CICE) is also involved in the process aimed at establishing a new style ‘Institute of Education’ in Drumcondra.
Minister for Education and Skills Ruairí Quinn has signalled his support for changes proposed by an international panel of experts, which has been examining teacher training. The report was considered by Cabinet yesterday.
The key recommendation is that six new institutes for education be established to replace existing arrangements. There are currently 19 State funded colleges offering more than 40 college programmes in primary and post-primary teaching.
The reduction would be achieved through closures and mergers- while respecting the identity of the individual institutions.
Mr Quinn has asked the Higher Education Authority to submit a detailed report on how to implement the recommendations of the international review body. He will then report back to Cabinet with more formal proposals including financial implications.
Under the plan, the six new institutes would be managed by universities in their region. In practical terms, the governing body of DCU would, for example, manage the new institute bringing together DCU; St Patrick’s College; the Mater Dei Institute of Education and the CICE.
At present, St Patrick’s in Drumcondra is managed by the Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin. He entrusts the management of the college, including academic appointments, to the governing body. However, he appoints the members of the governing body.
The report recommends the following mergers/integrations;
*Dublin City University – St. Patrick’s College Drumcondra – Mater Dei Institute of Education with new campus located at St Patrick’s. CICE is also involved in this process.
*Trinity College Dublin – Marino Institute of Education – University College Dublin – National College of Art and Design with new campus possibly based in Marino.
*National University of Ireland Maynooth – Froebel College
*University of Limerick – Mary Immaculate College – Limerick Institute of Technology with campus at UL
*University College Cork – Cork Institute of Technology at UCC
*National University of Ireland Galway – St. Angela’s College Sligo at NUI Galway
The rationalisation is in line with the 2011 Hunt Report on Higher Education which sees local, regional and international collaboration as the key to the development of the system.
The report recommended that smaller teacher training colleges in Letterfrack, Co Galway and Thurles, Co Tipperary should be closed with St Angela's College in Sligo, which trains Home Economics teachers, moving to NUI Galway.
The chairperson of the Board of Governors of CICE, Archbishop Michael Jackson, said the proposed changes represent the opening of a new chapter.
“As an institution, we have embraced change and development positively at various points throughout our history and are committed to doing so again,” he said.
Dr Martin said he was very pleased at the new opportunities offered by the participation of the Church of Ireland College of Education. “This is a further sign of a new level of ecumenical cooperation between Archbishop Jackson and myself,” he said.
“Together with the dynamism of DCU, I see a promising pattern of cooperation emerging which responds to the challenge of developing educational policy in a pluralist society where religious education will be present in the highest level of excellence.”
DCU president Prof Brian MacCraith said the proposed research-led Institute of Education has the potential “to play a central role in transforming the future of Irish education”.
“We are also delighted that our discussions to date have been characterised by a spirit of collegiality, mutual respect and a common understanding that together we can deliver more in terms of teaching, research and service,” he said.
“Realising our transformative vision of education will require considerable consultation and dialogue within and across our respective institutions throughout the months ahead.”