The following letter from TUI President David Waters was published in the Irish Times this morning. It follows a report on increased drop-out rates during the 2020/21 academic year.
Sir, - While factors related to the pandemic exacerbated third level drop-out rates in 2020/21 (Irish Times 27/9/23), these overall figures should be viewed in the context of an ongoing political failure to in any way adequately address the sector’s funding crisis.
Released earlier this month, the latest OECD statistics (Education At A Glance 2023) show that at third level, the ratio of students to teaching staff in Ireland has now worsened to 23:1, a ratio significantly above the OECD average of 17:1. This unacceptable ratio results in larger class sizes and less access to laboratories, equipment, materials, libraries and tutorials.
As a result of this chronic underinvestment, it is hardly a surprise that in recent years, the time and support that staff can provide to students has come under huge pressure, with significantly less opportunity available to interact with students individually or in smaller groups. Clearly, in such a situation, it is those students who require the most additional support who lose out, and this obviously has an effect on drop-out rates.
Also, educational disadvantage does not cease after post-primary, and provision must be made available to deliver a level playing field to all students.
It is imperative that next month’s Budget begins the process of truly remedying this utterly unacceptable and damaging government inaction.
Teachers' Union of Ireland (TUI),
73 Orwell Road,