I didn’t hear Alan Dukes piece. For the most part I would say he generally has some good sense.
As far as third level is concerned, I don’t think it’s a question of more money, it’s more a question of wiser spend of money. The truth is, because of some failings at second level - mainly caused by the consumer nature of education - we are not going to be able to fix things at third level. We need to concentrate on a number of basics at primary level in the way of literacy and numeracy. We shouldn’t need remedial teaching in second level to cater for this. We also need to rethink the whole education system in this country but the odds of it being done anything other than ideologically are low.
In terms of third level, we can’t get a turnaround in under about 5 or 6 years. And unless we figure out fast what we want, we won’t even get it. We have issues relating to grade inflation and simplified curricula - maths is a case in point, and I’m pretty sure English is as well.
One of the key features of the Irish system is the broad nature of the school leaving certificate. I don’t think that necessarily needs to be changed, but I think we could look at shifting the schedule prior to that.
Currently, we have a primary → secondary shift at around 12 or 13 and that’s really it. I’d like to see a situation whereby we bring secondary in a year or two earlier. I’d also like to see better numeracy and literacy rates coming out of junior primary (say age .
I think subject priorities need to be shifted a little. I’m of the opinion that the key language courses, Irish and English need to be reassessed. I don’t think the current English course with its extremely heavy emphasis on literature is beneficial in terms of teaching people communication skills, so I’d like to see English literature split off from English language. I’d like to see the same done for Irish, although I recognise that the very strongly likelihood is that very few people would take the literature course in that case. We really need to up the ante in terms of numeracy skills and mathematics but I do think the damage there is done at primary level rather than second level.
I think there is a lot to be said for bringing in a second European language at the age of 10 rather than 13. I think with modern technology also, there is a lot of scope for making it more fun than it was when I was at school. I’d like to see kids do programming in computer skills rather than Microsoft Office or FaceBook and Bebo.
Above all, I’d like to see more people coming out of Leaving Certificate with qualifications in chemistry and physics and biology. These feed into research. I think, however, they suffer with the existance of softer subjects, such as religious studies. I haven’t time to examine the Leaving certificate time table right now, but the points system tends to see people go for easier subjects rather than more demanding subjects, and that’s regrettable. It’s also why throwing money at third level isn’t going to fix very much right now.
my two cents for now.