Gear second-level to wealth creation, says Intel director

THE Irish second-level education system needs to be geared towards producing people who will create future wealth and prosperity as we are now falling behind international standards, a forum was told yesterday.

The Open Forum on Transforming Education in Ireland was held in Trinity College Dublin’s Science Gallery and featured a keynote speech from Dr Martina Roth, director of global education at Intel.

Intel’s general manager in Ireland, Jim O’Hara, said the Government needed to plan for the future now and boost second-level to guarantee the country’s future growth and prosperity.

“In a world where modern society requires more and more technologists the complete opposite is happening in Irish schools,” he said. “The number of students taking up study in the critical STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) is falling. The standard of technology available in the classroom is poor.

“In terms of output of the current education system, the news looks even worse. On overall quality of post-primary education and training in 2009-2010, the World Economic Forum ranked Ireland only number 20 in the world. Furthermore, the quality of maths and science education in Ireland is ranked 24th in the world and we are ranked just 47th for internet access in schools.

“These figures should start ringing serious alarm bells.”

Mr O’Hara said there was scope for improved teacher training programmes, adding that “it is time to look at compensating teachers based on their performance”.

“The problem, as I see it, is that the current curriculum does not reflect practical and real applications that will be relevant to students either at the next level of education or, more importantly, in the workplace.

“The re-implementation of bonus points for maths is a step in the right direction, but is not enough on its own.

“I would suggest introducing ‘bonus time’ for maths or increased teaching time to help students understand the application of the maths concepts and develop problem-solving skills.”

He said if Ireland wants to have a 21st century smart economy one key factor was the need for a ‘best in class’ education system aligned to the need for a digital infrastructure in the country’s schools and a healthy research and development system.

The Government has been criticised by teaching unions and other bodies for policies that have led to some schools cutting the teaching time dedicated to the science subjects.

Dr Roth, who is also a member of the world Economic Forum Agenda Council on Education Systems, said Intel believed that economic growth is built upon a quality education for young people so that they can drive innovation and solve the big problems, such as healthcare, climate and infrastructure.

“Education is the great leveller, it creates the economy. Hence, every country is focusing on having a competitive education system,” she said, adding that government had to “lead the way”.

She said teachers were the most powerful tool in the global innovation pipeline.


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