The Irish Education system. Bork central


A pass in a modern language is a requirement for university admission in this country. However, the IUA (a private organisation funded with taxpayer money and made up exclusively of the heads of the Irish universities) is proposing–and getting a favourable reception from the Dept. of Education–that this requirement be done away with.

That is, I believe, a mistake. We ought to be expanding the teaching modern foreign languages (not Irish, I’m afraid) into primary school level, not undercutting them at secondary school level.


Most of the time, secondary level language qualifications are a mildly interesting temporary diversion, but that’s about all.

My O level French was necessary for my to enter the university I attended (though I don’t think that requirement was universal), but really, obtaining it was just a box-ticking exercise and it has been of no practical use in over a quarter of a century since then.


Isn’t Europe increasingly speaking English in the common professions?

Lots of friends who’ve taken up positions in Europe where attempting to learn the local lingo was expected but upon arrival found that everyone wanted to practice their english on them! One friend actually had to arrange his own lessons as his work were dragging their heals!

I’d be more in favour of making it easier for cultural emersion in other languages rather than teaching in a class environ for those wishing to pursue. In remember a Swedish friend telling me that living for six months in spain was part of his course.


Bully for you.

PayPal forced to ‘import’ 500 workers and warns of language skills crisis


You don’t need a third language for all degrees at NUI colleges. If you can get an exemption for Irish (not that hard, I’ve heard) then it’s possible to go to an NUI college with only one language (English) from Leaving Cert.


The problem is that a language is only (a) any use and (b) likely to remain in your head if you actually use it regularly and for most jobs, that will only be the case if you are going to emigrate.

One of the problems with speaking what is effectively the world’s second language is that choosing another one is an arbitrary decision and one that has a very high probability of being a dead end, unless you do make that decision to emigrate to a specific language zone. Being fluent in Spanish is of limited use if you find your suppliers or customers are in Germany or Korea. Being better qualified and more experienced in finite element analysis, fluid dynamics, organic synthesis or whatever your speciality is, is likely to carry a much greater premium and is much more internationally transferable.

A similar thing is true for most school subjects. Most of them are of no practical use after leaving. I can honestly say that the only subjects I studied even to O level that are of daily use to me are English language, maths, chemistry and physics and that I don’t even make regular use of much of my degree in any fine detail.

The other things I studied might have been (more or less) interesting, but they weren’t honestly useful.


This is the key. We should really divorce primary and secondary education (and perhaps much of third level) from any notion that it is meant to have anything to do with employment or “practicality.” For one thing, educational curricula don’t and can’t keep up with the changing jobs market.

What our educational system should do is create people who are generally educated and have learned how to learn and, thereby, to be flexible. Foreign languages are part of that.


I still can’t say that French and a couple of years of German count as anything more than something else I’ve largely forgotten. They weren’t even particularly interesting, unlike, for example, integral calculus; something else for which I have no daily need and which has largely atrophied, but at least was interesting at the time and with which I am probably equally likely to need to reacquaint myself in the future.


They only want native speakers, really. Hilarious to hear PayPal complaining that the education system is not turning out native-standard speakers of Finnish!

I agree with you that learning a language is ‘learning how to learn’ and valuable regardless of whether there is a significant chance of using it in later life. But there’s just no point doing it in a classroom. Either do it by immersion or don’t bother. I would include Irish in that.


Yes but what that article or similar commentary fails to mention is that the type of jobs that language graduates can hope to achieve here using languages are generally low-paying customer services or translation roles. Or that many language graduates are forced to emigrate to use their langage skills. And also that the big multinationals prefer to bring in native speakers for the many Inside Sales jobs located in Ireland as such native speakers have the regional accents and patois that they require to appeal to (and sell to) their target customers in the specific regions targeted ie. Swiss German etc.

So in summary (IMO):

Languages - good for your holidays - generally crap for your kids careers!


Indeed. I always understood that rant was just PayPal’s way of keeping the pressure on so that they could get approved for as many work permits as they needed for low wage non-EU language speakers.


That’s pretty much true for most FDI jobs here, regardless of language. “De knowledge economy” is mainly customer service and telesales.


There are plenty of good IT jobs (junior and senior) available in the FDI sector, often being filled by immigrants due to the scarcity of suitable Irish candidates, and probably plenty of decent Finance and/or Marketing roles, although I am not as tuned into the Finance/Marketing area.


Yes there are. But AFAIK for every actual “knowledge economy” job there are n customer service/telesales jobs, where n>1.


Yes, and as stated previously language telesales for IT companies are usually staffed by native language speakers, often transient immigrants who will do this job for a few years then head off. In regards to CS roles the unfortunate reality is that graduates with crappy degrees or unwanted degrees or no degrees have to do something!



I was being cold-called by LinkedIn a while ago, trying to sell me their recruitment package. While I was chatting to the cold-call telesales agent I looked her up on LinkedIn. She had an undergrad degree from one of the decent Irish universities; a masters in business from Smurfit; and a couple of years postgraduate experience. 10 years ago she would have been working for an investment bank or in management consulting. I felt really bad for her saying “no” :frowning:


An unwanted degree a couple of years ago might be something normally regarded as very decent such as Architecture or Archaeology. Them’s the swings and roundabouts of cyclical boom and bust.


Archaeology isn’t something that most people (including archaeologists) would ever regard as widely wanted in a commercial or employment sense. Almost everybody studying it accepts that they will have a low probability of getting a job in which they can use their degree regularly. Architecture is a better example of cyclical demand.

Archaeology is a good example of something mind-expanding, but career-limiting, unlike chemistry, for example. Both archaelogists and chemists can become investment bankers or civil servants (and a good background in physical chemistry, with the mathematical rigour it requires, will be attractive in financial analysis), but the archaeologist is never going to become a chemist, formulation scientist or chemical engineer without going back for another degree and there just aren’t and never have been that many jobs for graduates in either archaeology or chemistry as archaeologists (though the chemist might get work providing services to archaelogists, but probably not the other way round). Both involve learning how to think about the world, but one is undeniably more useful at the same time.

As an aside, I suppose that instead of returning to formal education, the archaeologist could try self-educating, but that would then require spending an enormous time trying to convince people of the validity of that self-education and the knowledge acquired would be entirely theoretical, since there’s little opportunity to do much more than A level or Leaving Cert practical work informally or at home. In practice, it will have to be back to college.

Now, I’m sure Fingers will say that this is an argument against early specialisation and we should all have a general education, with the minimum of specialisation. That’s all very well, just as long as you don’t mind people not starting sub-graduate/school-leaver jobs until they’re 21 or so, elementary qualified ones (that is BSc/BEng/BA ones) until 24 or 25, ones that require proper education as a beginner (PhD) until nearly 30 and not getting into the stride of being really productive and understanding what they’re doing until their late 30s. He’s basically saying that the school leaving age should be at least three or four years higher than it is. Fair enough, but remember that we’re all going to have to pay for it one way or another. If that’s what we want; fine, but we should make the decision with our eyes open.
Anyway, that still doesn’t help those who actually *wanted *to specialise early. I’m sure there are people who loathed maths and were bored by history as much as I loathed sport and was bored by languages. There comes a point at which you are no longer educating people more broadly, but simply alienating them from education altogether.

Disclaimer: I am not actually a chemist, but many of my colleagues are and have been. My job could be done by somebody who started out with a chemistry degree and made appropriate post graduation choices; as I could do many of theirs. I’m afraid archaeology, architecture, mediaeval French literature, economics or sociology just wouldn’t cut it; not without going back to taking a path untaken at eighteen or even earlier. There are just too many foundational skills, too much background knowledge and too many ways of thinking about the world missing.

(Nevertheless, I’m sure we would all be equally capable of driving a bank into the ground. :laughing: )


OK, I know that almost any post in this thread, no matter how anodyne, will provoke a furious row, but I thought you might find this interesting.

Finns aren’t what they used to be

Read on, but as ever, it seems to be a case of difficulty deconvoluting a wide range of influences that were never seriously examined in any controlled fashion, even if they could have been…


Traditionally, Finland has had, in comparative terms:
-High levels of income per capita
-Low levels of income inequality
-A small immigrant population.

Very few other European countries tick all these boxes.