Thursday, September 9, 2010

Rescue remedy needed for training and education system

The viability, reputation and stature of our national training and education enterprise is sailing like the Titanic en-route to the iceberg and there are no life jackets on board.

Despite recurring and widespread allegations of systemic malpractice and accounting failures at FÁS, SIPTU announce glibly that the ‘problems’ at FÁS can be overcome, a perspective not apparently echoed by IBEC. Is this a case of mutual recognition by birds of a feather, or does it merely imply that SIPTU has a higher than desirable tolerance of mediocrity and slovenliness and an aversion to change and radical reform?  FÁS is a creature of a social partnership process that has self-destructed as a result of insular thinking, incompetent, delinquent and politically compromised leadership. The best days of FÁS are behind it and only those with deep vested interests, most precious to themselves, refuse to recognise this while those most effected deserve a much more enlightened and inspiring response.

Secondly, a stronger level of Government supervision is urgently needed over the plethora of private third-level colleges emerging in this country. This could take the form of an operating licence reflecting the conformity of its teachers and courses to designated national standards.  Some of these so-called colleges are purely money-making rackets promoted by individuals with no background in education and no substantial personal academic credentials. They should be immediately banned from advertising courses that have no Irish State accreditation rather than playing on the desperation and gullibility of an unsuspecting public, presumed to believe that any entity with the initials C D in its identity automatically has the prestige and resourcefulness of a distinguished university. When there is incisive and scathing official criticism of a private college it is no defence whatsoever to state that such criticism is "not as positive as we might have hoped".

Thirdly, the realisation that 40% of our adult population struggle with primary school maths and that 10% of the candidates for ordinary maths in the 2010 Leaving Certificate failed is a symptom of a fundamental failure in leadership at an institutional and also at a political level. If that trend is not successfully arrested the prospects of our society being able to sustain the standard of living it aspires to will be sorely compromised and those adversely affected will find it increasingly difficult to obtain meaningful work at home and abroad because such a wide range of skills are based on some understanding of maths and mathematical relationships.

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