Jude Collins

Thursday, 18 October 2012

A tale of two state systems

So Ruairi  Quinn, the south's Education minister, is keen to shake up the post-primary curriculum. If you're a minister in a government, you've got to show that you're hard-working and imaginative, and so it helps if you come up with some bold, radical step. Micheal Martin wouldn't be where he is today (the leader of Fianna Fail) if it weren't for his imaginative ban on smoking in public buildings ( for example, pubs). So no doubt Ruairi is hoping he'll have similar joy with his attack on the Junior Cert.

But there's a catch. Yep, you guessed it - money. The teachers' union TUI has a letter in today's Irish Times  and they're keen to stress they're with the minister in the need for reform but...

"In respect of any new assessment methods, TUI’s long-held position is that time, external moderation, in-service training and payment where appropriate must be provided. Under these conditions and provided it is adequately resourced, TUI has always been a strong advocate of, and is deeply committed, to curriculum change."

Ruairi may have a fight on his hands. 

Meanwhile up north Education minister John O'Dowd carries on a long, long battle over post-primary education - to wit, the abolition of academic testing at eleven years of age. He's dead right, as anyone who knows anything about education knows, even if they won't say it; but he too has a fight on his hands: the grammar schools. When you have power - in this case, what's seen as the cream of the crop  in your school, you're not too thrilled when someone tries to take all that away from you. Hence the long, long fight against the abolition of the Eleven Plus here. 

What I don't understand is why O'Dowd isn't down knocking on Quinn's door and asking him to sit down and compare how they both see education. Is there something happens to young people, once they go north or south of the border, that an entirely different curriculum has to be devised? And what about that Easter Proclamation about "cherishing all of the children of the nation equally"?

If ever there was a case for cross-border co-operation, this  is it.  Fingers out, lads.


  1. Good point Jude. We'll be needing to look again at the whole curriculum and England works towards a more academic intermediate exam (and there's bound to be a vocational alternative even if it isn't called a CSE) and we might as well see if an all-Island curriculum council would be a cost effective way to make sure we can all equally access universities on this island if nothing else. Trinity's been getting a bit sniffy about A levels lately. Not good for middle class prod kids. Let's have a level playing field.

  2. SF have to be seen to be going through the motions of objective evaluation rather than declaring their actual hand (at this stage)in relation to any AllIrelandry.