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UK and America lag far behind Ireland on education

Posted by Francis O' Toole on May 8, 2015

‘It is up to third-level colleges – not secondary schools – to teach students research skills’
‘It is up to third-level colleges – not secondary schools – to teach students research skills’

Barbara Scully’s article (Irish Independent, May 6) regarding our rigid education system left me wondering whether Ms Scully was writing with tongue in cheek.

She wrote: “I hear friends in the United Kingdom and the United States talk of the education of their teenagers and wonder how we in Ireland have managed to get so stuck.”

Is Ms Scully for real? Has she reviewed the OECD’s latest Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) results for the USA and the UK? Both countries lag far behind our little country when it comes to all areas of the PISA test. We should copy the US and the UK education systems only if we want our students to drop down the PISA ratings.

Might I suggest Ms Scully read the works of Ken Robinson, Diane Ravitch, Dr Peter Mortimore, Stephen J Ball and Amanda Ripley, to mention but a few, who have clearly shown that the UK and US education systems are having major difficulties?

A few weeks ago, some teachers in Atlanta in the US were jailed for falsifying exam scores. This is a result of school-based assessment and pressure to outperform other schools.

It is interesting to note that Harriet Alexander, a reporter with the ‘Daily Telegraph’ in the UK , writing in December 2013, had this to say about the OECD education report: “Ireland’s emphasis on pastoral care keeps standards high. Ireland has achieved high rankings in the OECD literacy league tables and bounced back from a dramatic dip in the last survey. Ireland, so delighted with its storytelling heritage, is second only to Finland in European literacy rankings.”

Finally, Ms Scully’s quote from the head of a third-level institution, in which he stated: “many lecturers have to spend too long teaching the ‘freshers’ how to research, how to analyse information and how to think before they can begin to educate them in their chosen field”, is hilarious.

It is in third-level colleges that young students learn the skills of research and free thinking. Does this college head want the secondary school system to give all the students a degree before they leave secondary school?

Dr David O Grady

Killarney, Co Kerry


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