Category Archives: Education Policy

The Value of International Test Results

The positive results Irish students achieved in the recently published TIMMS and PISA results received relatively low levels of discussion in Irish media. The results appear to vindicate the general direction of the Literacy and Numeracy Strategy. However, whether international comparative test results are good or bad, it is important to reflect on the role such tests play in our knowledge of a country and its schools. Continue reading

Klingon 2: Consequences of Teaching Klingon to Every Student

If the language Klingon were to be taught in every school, some consequences would follow that would need to be addressed at a policy or practice level.

Most teachers may not currently be fluent in the language or they may need to have their knowledge of the language refreshed. That would require systematic professional development for teachers in Klingon. Teacher education programmes would need to ensure that graduates were sufficiently fluent in the language for it to be taught well.

Not only would teachers need to be competent in Klingon, they would need to be persuaded of the importance of helping children become fluent in the language at an age-appropriate level as early as possible. Continue reading

Klingon 1: Reasons to Teach Klingon to Every Student

Teachers frequently complain about curriculum overload. That doesn’t stop politicians and others proposing new curriculum subjects or topics. So on this day, which marks the fiftieth anniversary of the first broadcast of Star Trek, join me in a thought experiment about adding to the curriculum a subject that few have considered.

Star Trek films are hugely popular and the thirteenth film in the series was released earlier in 2016. Klingon is the language spoken by Klingons in the Star Trek film series. A case can be made for teaching Klingon to every student in our primary and post-primary schools. Continue reading

Why Do We Teach?

“Certainly he’s got go,” said Gudrun. “In fact I’ve never seen a man that showed signs of so much. The unfortunate thing is, where does his go go to, what becomes of it?”

(From Women in Love by D.H. Lawrence)

To coincide with the Olympic Games in Rio I watched again the film Chariots of Fire. One major theme of the film relates to why top athletes run.

The film tells the stories of two British runners who participated in the 1924 Olympic games in Paris. One, Eric Liddell, runs for God; the other, Harold M. Abrahams runs for acceptance.

“I believe God made me for a purpose. And when I run, I feel his pleasure” states Liddell. Elsewhere he asks “So where does the power come from to see the race to the end?” His answer, “From within.”

In contrast, Abrahams states “I’m forever in pursuit and I don’t even know what it is I’m chasing.” When contemplating the hundred metres Olympics final he says “I’ll raise my eyes and look down that corridor: four feet wide with ten lonely seconds to justify my whole existence. But will I?” Continue reading

Changing Teaching, Changing Culture

How do teachers learn to teach? You might say by attending college, going on teaching practice, and from teaching experience. But according to Stigler and Hiebert, who wrote the book The Teaching Gap, teaching is a cultural activity. It is an activity that is absorbed from the culture through family conversations over meals, through watching television and listening to radio, and of course from spending 13 years as a student in various classrooms observing teachers teach. Learning about teaching in this way seems to be stronger than teacher education or continuing professional development. Continue reading

Changes in Irish Education – Opportunities and Risks

As we reach the end of the first month of 2012, the education landscape in Ireland looks more poised for change than it has for several years. Many fixtures of the system which have been in place for some time, or which have evolved relatively slowly, all now seem set for renewal. Just think about some of the changes that we know lie ahead: Continue reading

School League Tables and Improving Teaching

Teacher unions are critical of league tables. When tables of college entry linked to schools were published in national newspapers last week, the general secretary of the ASTI said that “It is important to recognise that these tables do not tell us about the real performance of schools. In fact they present a shallow, incomplete and distorted picture of the work of schools.” Although many educators might agree with this view, it can sometimes be helpful to look at the other side.

Let’s just suppose that league tables are useful. At their very best, what good are they? Here are some possible benefits that I can think of. Continue reading

10 Questions about influences on Irish Education

Last week The Irish Times claimed to be “the first to identify and rank the main movers in Irish education” in its list of the fifty most influential people in education. This is indeed an interesting task to take on because if we know who shapes education, we know who influences the next generation of Irish citizens and who thereby leaves a substantial legacy behind them. Continue reading

Why the CAO Points for Teaching Matter to All Teachers

The number of CAO points required for entry to teaching courses matters to qualified teachers as well as to those who wish to become teachers. The points give an indication of the status of the teaching profession in the country. Continue reading

Timing of Transition Year

Can anyone tell me why transition year in most schools is held immediately after the Junior Cert and before studying for the Leaving Cert begins? Continue reading