The Government wants to make our education system the best in Europe within a decade.
The ambitious goal is part of the new Action Plan for Education, published today, but Ministers have failed to provide any details of cost for the plan, or any additional funding.
Education Minister Richard Bruton said: "We have set a really ambitious target here in this plan. We aim to make the Irish education system the best in Europe within a decade."
There are hundreds of actions in the plan to help disadvantaged schools, to reduce the cost of school for parents, and to boost the teaching of science in schools.
Minister Bruton said: "To broaden the range of subject choice, to carve pathways for children who are at a disadvantage, to see 30% more to go into college, to see a drop of 40% in the number of children who drop out of school."
Coding is also on the cards – to be rolled out at primary level from 2018;
The Minister said: "We are committed to rolling out ICT at every level. We have asked the NCCA to initiate how coding will be introduced at primary level."
But while this plan is long on ambition, it is short on detail of how it will be paid for.
Mr Bruton said: "Yes indeed, more resources will allow us to do more, every year we will be fighting our corner for those resources, but this frames an ambition for a decade."
The Taoiseach Enda Kenny was on hand for the announcement, and told pupils at St Brigid's national school that apprenticeships would be increased.
Mr Kenny said: "Not everybody can be a PhD, many people are skilled with their hands, trades.
"You need to have an opportunity for everybody to be able to do something."
Among the headline actions announced as part of today’s plan are:
Disadvantage– a new ambitious DEIS plan published by end-2016 which will pioneer new approaches for delivering results; DEIS schools to hit the national average for school retention levels, within the next decade (an increase of at least 9%); a 30% increase in the number of students from disadvantaged areas attending higher level; five-fold increase in the reach of the Incredible Years teacher programme for DEIS schools; six-fold increase in the reach of the Friends programme aimed at supporting children in difficulty
Subject choice –including rolling out coding to primary schools from 2018, teaching of computer science as a Leaving Certificate subject, and processes to introduce teaching of new languages such as Mandarin at second level and to enhance teaching of languages at third level
Skills – recognising that the ‘war for talent’ is now one of the most important factors for job-creation, ambitious action to be developed and implemented including a total of 100 apprenticeship schemes and 50 traineeship schemes delivering 50,000 registrations between now and 2020; 25% increase in increase access to work experience at higher level; 25% increase in flexible learning; an entrepreneurship education plan
Mental health and Wellbeing – roll out a national programme to support the implementation of Wellbeing Guidelines to all primary and post-primary schools; Implement Wellbeing at Junior Cycle; publish the 2015 Lifeskills survey, providing information on how schools cater for the wellbeing of their students
Parents/children – ensure that the voices of the service users are made more central to the system by developing a Parents and Learners Charter on a statutory basis
Costs – new measures to tackle the costs of schools for parents including a requirement on schools to take consideration of the needs of parents when taking decisions that have a financial impact, a strong new circular to schools regarding uniform costs (which will be developed taking into account the views of parents), and extra funding for book rental schemes as resources permit
Leadership – better mentoring for newly appointed school principals, a coaching service for existing school principals, and a postgraduate qualification for aspiring school principals
Improvement –over366,000 hours of continuous professional development for teachers by 2017 (a 4.5% increase on 2016); a new centre of excellence, integrating existing supports, to support in-school improvement and peer exchange, and a school excellence fund to support innovation
Special educational needs – establish a new Inclusion Support Service to bring together various services to better support children with special educational needs
School building programme – aimed at delivering over 60,000 additional permanent school places, over 300 extensions to existing schools and build 14 new schools by 2021
Teacher education – Launch a competitive call to increase access to teacher education by students from members of the Irish Traveller community, students with disabilities and students from under-represented socio-economic groups and communities
Gaeltacht – Publish and implement an education strategy for the Gaeltacht.