The 18-month Hibernia College postgraduate course began last month for 180 students, who will learn on-line content and have live tutorials over the internet along with regular regional class sessions.
Education Minister Noel Dempsey recognised the college’s Graduate Diploma in Primary Education as a suitable qualification for teaching jobs in August.
But the teacher training colleges have taken issue with the decision and raised questions about the quality of the private course. The students of the colleges of education added their voices yesterday, under the banner of the Alliance for Professionalism in Teaching (APT). “This is a major threat to the education system and the people who are going to be affected are children in the classroom,” said Jonathan Tiernan, students union president at St Patrick’s College, Drumcondra.
He said the Government has ignored an April 2002 report which recommended extending full-time postgraduate courses from 18 months to two years.
Mr Dempsey is to announce a further round of postgraduate places soon, but there are concerns that his department will fund fewer places. A spokesperson for Mr Dempsey said he agreed to recognise the Hibernia course provided all the conditions set by the Higher Education Training and Awards Council (HETAC), including those relating to quality assurance, are met.
Hibernia College executive chairman Dr Sean Rowland said the student protest appeared to be misdirected towards a private sector college and said the on-line course met the same standards as State training colleges.
“The crucial point remains that 10% of all primary teachers have no formal teaching qualification and the traditional State teacher training colleges cannot process the numbers needed.”