Latest international report highlights alarmingly inadequate investment in Irish education – TUI

By piofficer, Monday, 3rd October 2022 | 0 comments

The latest set of annual international OECD indicators – Education At A Glance 2022 – endorse the work and value of educators while illustrating the shameful failure at Government level to invest appropriately in education.  

Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) President Liz Farrell this morning offered the following commentary on the publication’s findings:  

Ireland cutting itself adrift from OECD counterparts due to shameful and chronic underfunding  

“Across Ireland, teachers and lecturers continue to provide a first-class education service to learners of all abilities against the backdrop of significant additional challenges.  The publication of today’s report is timely in the wake of last week’s Budget, illustrating in stark terms how far behind other countries we have are in terms of investment in education.’  

Ireland drifting further away from OECD counterparts in terms of investment  

“The most damning metric in this report shows that of the countries for which figures are provided, none spend a lower proportion of national wealth on education than Ireland’s (2.9%). At second level, the situation has worsened further, with Ireland’s spend (1%) the lowest of the 36 countries for which figures are provided, trailing far behind the OECD and European averages (both 1.9%). These disparities are also reflected in the figures provided on spend-per-student across the sectors.  

Recent experiences related to the pandemic have made clear just how many schools and colleges are unfit for the requirements of modern education, while the hollowing out of middle-management positions in schools has made it more difficult to assist students who are experiencing difficulties of various kinds.  

In addition, it is students from disadvantaged backgrounds who ultimately suffer the most from inadequate education budgets, so the continued refusal to invest appropriately will only serve to widen inequalities in Irish society.”  

Effects of third level funding crisis made clear   

“In third level colleges, the ratio of students to teaching staff in Ireland now stands at 22:1, which is vastly higher than the respective OECD and European averages of 15:1 and 14:1. It is a legacy of the ongoing political refusal to address the sector’s funding crisis, and a generation of students are losing out as a result.”  

Teachers at upper second level work longer hours than OECD/European averages  

“At upper second level, Irish teachers continue to teach more hours than the OECD and European averages. Finland, Germany, Norway, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Korea and Japan are among those countries with much lower numbers of teaching hours at this level.    

Meanwhile, the report shows that at second level, the starting salaries of Irish teachers are below the OECD and European averages.  

However, even then, it must be borne in mind that these salaries are based on an assumption that Irish second level teachers commence on contracts of full hours, which is simply not the case. A survey of our membership earlier this year showed that 65% of teachers appointed after 2011 did not get a contract of full hours upon initial appointment, which means that for several years, they only earn a fraction of a full salary. With the current cost-of-living crisis, this is unsustainable.  To tackle the current recruitment and retention crisis, we must return to a system where teachers commence their careers on secure contracts of full hours.” 

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