Sunday, May 29, 2011

Transforming Education in Ireland

The second Intel forum on education, entitled “Transforming Education in Ireland”, was held in Trinity College, Dublin, on Thursday, May 26th. The keynote speech was given by the Taoiseach, Enda Kenny. Panel members included Jerome Morrissey, Director of the National Centre for Technology in Education (NCTE), Regina Moran, CEO, Fujitsu Ireland, Tommie Walshe, President, National Parents Council post primary (NPCpp), Moira Leydon, Asst General Secretary, Education and Research at ASTI, Tony Donohue, Irish Business and Employers Confederation (IBEC) and Peter Hamilton of Intel Performance Learning Solutions.

The forum also provided an opportunity for Intel to launch its Smartclass post primary schools competition, details of which can be found at

The Taoiseach’s words on the commitment of the government to change in education were welcome, although his appearance at the forum meant that mainstream reportage of the event was largely confined to his contribution. This is a shame, because many topics were also of interest, from the concern at the weight of schoolbags, which was mentioned as a priority for parents by Mr. Walshe, to the reminder from an audience participant that the former CEO of Intel, Craig Barrett, whose commitment to education, worldwide, is total, is on record as saying that Ireland is in effect deluding itself by continuing to hold the belief that we have an education system that is world class.

However, there is an air of change in education these days. How much of this is government policy being implemented or how much is due to the personal commitment of Ruairi Quinn, the Minister for Education, is yet to be fully revealed, but a number of initiatives have already indicated a breaking of the inertia that had characterised the previous administration. One is the setting up of the Forum on Patronage and Pluralism in the Primary Sector and the other is the announcement that Educate Together, the body that has already established a large number of multi-denominational National schools, to allow a choice to those parents who do not want their children to have to attend a church-dominated school, will now be considered for the management of secondary schools also.

As with the first Intel forum on education, this reviewer was left with the impression that there are a great many committed and responsible players in Irish education. That they were starved of resources during the so-called “Celtic Tiger” period is reprehensible, and it would be a tragedy if the current economic circumstances were used as an excuse for a continuation of this situation.

Once again, Intel is to be thanked for making it possible for people involved in education in Ireland to have their voices heard outside of the profession.

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