Education cutbacks bad for economy

Sinéad Pentony04/08/2011

Sinéad Pentony: Today’s news that class sizes are set to increase highlights the shortsightedness of responses to the fiscal crisis.

As in many areas of public expenditure, Ireland has consistently lagged behind other OECD and EU countries both in terms of spending and performance. Ireland spends 4.7 per cent of GDP on education compared to the OECD average of 6.2 per cent. Even during the boom, education spending remained one of the lowest in the OECD. Our class size average is 24 pupils, compared with an EU average of 20, which is the second largest in the EU. The Minister for Education has said that our education system is not ‘fit for purpose’ and he’s right – our reading levels (OECD/Pisa survey results) have fallen from 5th place in 2000 to 17th place in 209. Our ranking in mathematics tumbled from 16th in 2006 to 26th in 2009. So the proposal to increase class sizes will reduce our low level of spending even further and will undoubtedly have a knock-on effect on our performance. Also, the impact of increased class sizes will be felt disproportionately in schools and communities that are already struggling with reduced resources. These schools tend to be concentrated in deprived areas where there is limited scope for parents to make “voluntary contributions” to their local schools.

However in the medium-long term, cutbacks in education will impact on our ability to compete at a global level in new industries that are driven by innovation. An education system that is ‘fit for purpose’ requires:

• a major reduction in class sizes at all levels in the education system
• proper equipping of all schools with educational technology
• a radical movement away from rote learning and mass testing at all levels of the system towards group-based project work.

Our recovery is predicated on investment in our future – education.

Posted in: InequalityEconomicsInvestment

Tagged with: austerityEducationcuts

Sinéad Pentony

Sinead Pentony

Sinéad Pentony is Associate Director with the Trinity Foundation, Trinity College Dublin working towards securing private funding and other support for a range of projects - primarily from individuals, companies and foundations.

Her fundraising portfolio includes supporting the Schools of Computer Science and Statistics; Mathematics; and Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences to deliver on their strategic priorities with the help of philanthropy support and sponsorship.

She has been working in the not-for-profit sector since the mid-1990s and generating income and fundraising has been a key part of her roles. She develops strategic relationships with a view to delivering mutually beneficial outcomes.

Her previous roles have involved undertaking research and policy work across a variety of public policy areas, policy influencing and advocacy work with a wide variety of stakeholders, public communications, lecturing, and leading or supported strategic planning and review processes aimed at refocusing the work of programmes and organisations in a changing context.

Sinéad was previously head of policy with TASC.


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