The latest set of OECD indicators – Education At A Glance 2020 – highlight the continuing failure to appropriately fund education in Ireland while endorsing the work
of Irish educators.
TUI President Martin Marjoram offered the following commentary on some key findings from the 500-page report.
Now more than ever, education must be adequately funded
Irish teachers and lecturers have demonstrated remarkable flexibility throughout the national health emergency, providing a first-class education service to learners of all abilities.
The findings of the latest OECD Education At A Glance report make clear that they have been carrying out their work in a sector that is chronically under-resourced by international standards.
Now more than ever, with a range of current and future challenges, an adequately-funded education system must be seen as central to the country’s future.
Ireland bottom of the pile in terms of overall investment
Of the countries for which figures are provided, only three spend a lower proportion of national wealth on education than Ireland’s (3.4%). At second level, the situation is even worse again with Ireland’s spend (1.1%) the lowest of the 36 countries for which figures are provided, trailing unacceptably far behind the OECD and European averages (both 1.9%).
It is those students from disadvantaged backgrounds who suffer the most from inadequate education budgets, and the ongoing failure to invest sufficiently can only be viewed as a continued attack on the most vulnerable in communities around the country.
Effects of third level funding crisis made clear
At third level, the ratio of students to teaching staff of 20:1 remains significantly higher than the OECD average of 15:1 and European average of 14:1. This is a clear indictment of the ongoing political failure – or refusal – to address the sector’s funding crisis.
Further and adult education sector offers solution to worrying numbers neither employed nor in education
13% of Ireland’s 20-24 year-olds are neither employed nor in education (NEETs), according to the latest OECD data. This represents a large proportion of young people and our publicly-funded further and adult education sector should be appropriately resourced to provide options to this cohort of the population.
Irish teachers work longer hours than OECD/European averages and earn less than workers with similar educational attainment
At upper second level, Irish teachers continue to teach more hours than the OECD and European averages. Finland, Germany, Italy, Spain, France, Korea and Japan are among those countries with lower numbers of teaching hours.
Starting salaries for full-time teachers at second level are broadly in line with the OECD and European averages. However, it is important to note that the majority of second-level teachers in Ireland commence employment on a contract of less than full hours.
In addition, the report shows that at second level, the actual salaries of Irish teachers are just 85% of those of other full-time workers with a tertiary education.
Irish second-level schools continue to experience a teacher recruitment and retention crisis as a result of the two-tier pay system. A survey carried out by principals and deputy principals in over 120 Irish schools last month found that 98% of schools have experienced difficulties employing substitute teachers over the past twelve months. 81% of these believe that pay discrimination is a significant factor. TUI will continue to campaign vigorously on this issue.