Sir, – There are myriad reasons that dropout rates are climbing across the higher education sector. Some as reported by Carl O’Brien (News, September 27th) point to isolation, loneliness and disconnection associated with the impact of the pandemic. Others identified, by your letter writers (September 28th), such as chronic underinvestment for the sector, affordability for students and families and the lack of sufficient learner supports and mental health services, are also valid.
I would that many dropouts result from students pick the wrong option because of our national obsession with the CAO and rush towards third level. A more balanced approach, particularly by guidance in our second level schools, that embraces the benefits and opportunities of our further education and training sector and apprenticeships that promote the value of finding the “right” course, would result in less students opting for unsuitable programmes at unsustainable high levels. The further education and training sector should also be utilised to serve the students that fall out of higher education for whatever reason, preparing them for the world of work or perhaps for progression back into higher education when that are ready and better prepared. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – I meet many further education and training students and apprentices who see college in the years ahead to complement the skills, knowledge and experience they will have from their chosen industry. Secondary schools will need to find another metric on how they succeed than solely counting the points and college places achieved. Does each secondary school know how many of their students have taken a further education and training route and any of the 70-plus apprenticeships on offer? As in college, all who start a further education and training or apprenticeship do continuous assessment through the two to four years by their institutions and employers, in conjunction with the relevant awarding body. This maintains the quality of their qualifications as they progress in their working life. – Yours, etc,