In Fuller Democracy 2016, 85% of people said that they support ending the patron-based school system and bringing all schools under direct government oversight without religious or gender segregation.
That means an end to separate boys’ and girls’ schools and an end to having to secure baptismal certificates for school registration.
Gender equality and secularism are widespread values in our society today and these should be reflected in our education system. Bringing schools under direct government oversight would also end the headache of varying school admissions policies, which make it difficult for many people to find a place for their child in over-subscribed schools, and which sometimes force families to split their children up among different schools. When schools are not run by a particular patron, children generally just attend the next-nearest school. Life becomes very simple for everyone involved, and the quality of education that children receive becomes more uniform.
In addition to helping people find school places for their children where I can, I have also applied to volunteer at my local Educate Together school. While Educate Together is a school patron (and thus, this action does not necessarily further getting rid of patrons), the organization does embody the ethos of non-gender segregated, religiously tolerant education, so supporting them to enrol as many children as possible is at least progress.
Another point that I feel quite strongly about is equal access to education. I do not believe that fee-paying schools should be permitted to exist. While fully abolishing such schools would be legally quite difficult, I’m more than open to exploring such possibilities. Our educational system is competitive, but that competition should be fair and based on merit alone.
You can see me arguing along these lines at an Education Equality meeting at Trinity College in the run-up to the last election here (starts at 7m50s):
I support the development of a culture of excellence where students are encouraged to reach their full potential across all subjects. Ireland is particularly lacking in programmes for gifted and high-achieving children, who, as a consequence, often fail to fully apply themselves to learning and work later in life. That is a tragic waste – for themselves and for society.
I favour an educational model that puts students and student-teacher relationships at the centre of learning. As I emphasised in my article for The Independent, there’s no magic bullet to learning that is applicable to everyone. Learning is a very individualized process and (at least at this point in time), you can’t replace a teacher taking the time to understand a particular student with a computer programme. Thus, I would rather see an investment in a higher teacher-to-student ratio than fancy gadgets in the classroom.
As it stands now, many Irish students graduate secondary school and third-level education without mastering basic skills, such as writing, math and time management. This is in large part not due to lack of capability on the part of the student, but rather due to serious negligence in their education that needs to be rectified with more personal attention.
The Leaving Cert
I believe that the Leaving Cert, not to mention its accompanying culture of grinds and stress, is little more than a national waste of time and money, and I will be asking people if and how they would like to reform it in Fuller Democracy 2017 (sign up here).