The latest annual education indicators from the OECD – Education At A Glance 2023 – once again highlight the abject failure at Government level to invest appropriately in education.
The Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) has described the timing of the report’s publication as important ahead of next month’s Budget, which it says needs to commit fully to appropriately funding education across all sectors.
TUI President David Waters offered the following commentary on some of the publication’s key findings.
‘The Irish education system continues to punch above its weight, providing a high quality service to students despite continuing underinvestment.’
Damning overall investment figures
‘The most concerning and damning metric in this latest set of indicators shows that of the countries for which figures are provided, none spend a lower proportion of national wealth (GDP) on education than Ireland (3%). This is even more pronounced at second level, where at 1%, the spend for second level is just half that of the OECD average.’
‘Inadequate teaching allocations to schools and the failure to restore middle management positions have long been identified by TUI as key drivers of the current teacher recruitment and retention crisis, so this continuing failure to invest appropriately has had extremely damaging effects on the profession and ultimately on the service to students.’
‘Next month’s Budget must provide the appropriate, targeted funding to finally begin the process of remedying this inaction.’
Third level funding crisis
‘In third level colleges, the ratio of students to teaching staff in Ireland has now worsened to 23:1, far above the OECD average of 17:1. This is a legacy of the ongoing failure to address the sector’s crisis and a generation of students is losing out as a result.’
‘Inactivity rates’ show potential for further and adult education sectors
‘At 19%, Ireland has a higher percentage of inactive 25-34 year-olds with second level as their highest level of educational attainment than the OECD average. Every effort should be made to encourage this cohort to engage in courses in country’s high quality further and adult education sector, which provide a wide range of excellent standalone qualifications, often with the option of further progression.’
Salary data must be looked at in context
‘The report states that at second level, starting salaries of Irish teachers are below the OECD average.’
‘However, it must be borne in mind that these salaries are based on an assumption that Irish teachers commence on ‘full’ jobs, which regrettably is not the case at second-level.’
‘A survey of teachers carried out by TUI earlier this year showed that of those recently appointed, less than a third of teachers (31%) appointed received a full-time contract, and just over one in ten teachers (13%) were offered permanent positions. This culture of precarious work is driving both potential and serving teachers away from the profession.’
‘We need to return to a system where teachers are offered full jobs and permanent contracts upon initial appointment.’