The following letter was published in the Irish Independent on Saturday, 3rd October 2015
Ivan Yates writes with studied alarmism about what he sees as the problems in Irish education (Irish Independent, October 1st). It is regrettable, if unsurprising, that he uses his article to provide a platform from which to attack educationalists.
One real crisis in our education system which he fails to mention relates to its hugely casualised workforce, with one third of TUI members at second level (and up to half of those under 35) in temporary/part time employment, with many experiencing income poverty as a result. To compound this inequality, new entrants to the profession since 2011 have been placed on discriminatory, differentiated pay scales.
All of this is happening while teachers are working in schools still reeling from the effects of austerity cutbacks, including cuts to guidance counselling and pastoral supports for students.
While Mr Yates is correct to point out the problem of chronic underfunding at third level, he neglects to mention that the weekly lecturing hours in Institutes of Technology have increased since the recession despite having already been significantly above international norms. This is unfair and unsustainable and is damaging to both lecturers and students.
It is very interesting that Mr Yates should reference Tony Blair's educational “reform” from 1996 in seeking to promote change here in Ireland. Tellingly, the most recent international OECD PISA findings (2012) show that Irish students outperformed their peers in the United Kingdom in Mathematics, Reading and Science.
Mr Yates' polemic seeks to marginalise the voices of teachers and lecturers. This is a recipe for educational disimprovement, not reform. True reform involves real engagement with our profession and respect for our conditions of work.
Teachers’ Union of Ireland
73 Orwell Rd