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Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Investing in Education, or Old Skool discos for middle-aged men?

The government's all about education, they say. You know the buzz words - fourth-level learning, research and development, the knowledge economy.

Apparently none of this stretches as far as actually investing in education, of course. We'll be seeing third-level fees re-introduced after a two decade absence shortly (to add to the existing four figure sum 'non-fees' for 'registering' in college.)

And kids in schools with leaky roofs, no hot water but hot and cold running rats and roaches will have to take comfort in the fact that the education minister has secured additional funding this year - for renting prefabs, some of which have been in situ since the Eighties at this stage.

So, in this morass of misery that is the Irish education system, it does one's black heart much joy to see Irish universities hosting major international conferences into ground-breaking areas of research of significant importance to us all.

University of Limerick, take a bow. In these times of recession and Dell lay-offs, heaven knows the Mid-West is miserable now.

So fair play to the eggheads, who last year started something they couldn't finish. But this year they did finish it - two full days of a symposium dedicated to the work of Morrissey.

Seriously, they spent funds on studying the works of the old misery monger for two days. Don't believe me? Here's the awful, academic-meets-Manc-quiff proof of it all:

Stop me if you've heard this one before, but I'm not entirely convinced that indulging fortysomething daffodil-inspired obsessives is where our university system should be focusing its funding and attentions.

No doubt everyone present were charming men, but ultimately, what difference does it make?

Actually, shoehorning Smiths songs into a blog post may be fun, but spending state education funding on this sort of thing isn't justifiable when working class kids are forced to abandon third-level plans and kids are dodging the rodents in their pre-fab classrooms.

Silly and indulgent research events like this one might have been grand at one time, when we as a nation had the cash to be frivolous. But today?

That joke just isn't funny anymore.


Anonymous said...

Don't this lot have a Women's Studies programme and make people from real courses take electives in this ill-researched "invent staistics" bunkum?
So what if they have a harmless symposium on Mozza.

JC Skinner said...

You could probably get a PhD in the number of BS courses going on in third level institutions these days.
My problem with the Morrissey (whose stuff I like from my youth) symposium is that the taxpayer is contributing to it out of the education budget at a time when kids are in schools that are literally infested and falling down.
Or if we want to keep it in the third-level sector, at a time when kids are being asked to find thousands in fees for an education.

Anonymous said...

Academia is oftentimes (Too many times?) synonomous with useless. BS courses are useless. For example Harriet Harman has revealed that her Equality Bill is just a jobs for the girls exercise based on trumped up statistics. Application of BS in the real world?

Rua say go said...

NO MORE SUBSIDISED PRIVATE SCHOOLS!!! You're either public or private, choose.

My primary school was a prefab, my secondary was a castle-guess which got more taxpayers money?

JC Skinner said...

Not as simple as that, Rua. Funding is supposedly dependent on number of pupils and a raft of other variables. You should ask the Department of Education what the funding levels for both schools you attended were (and are), and why.
As for private schools, I think that Hanafin in particular sought to make them whipping boys for the inadequacy of the Department of Education and the disgraceful historical underfunding of schools in general.
Private schools aren't subsidised at all. They receive money towards the wages of teachers. They generally receive LESS money per kid than state schools.
Some receive a small bit extra due to having a Protestant or Jewish ethos. I think the Muslim school does too. That's the only subsidy I'm aware of for any private schools, and I personally support it, despite being atheist. I'd rather those schools existed for people of minority religions.
I don't have a problem with schools asking parents to top up that cash with their own to make the school better. It's not like they're getting tax breaks on the money they hand over in fees.
In my experience, a lot of parents with kids in private schools are seriously stretching to pay those fees. The class war element is not only hackneyed but bogus.
Whether parents (and their kids) get value for their money or not from private schools is their own decision to make.

Rua said...

Of course it's not as simple as that, nothing ever is. What I am saying however is this.

In a situation where some public schools are so chronically underfunded that they are reduced to mere holding cells for youth offenders, should the tax payer be supporting schools which are already 'safe'?

Education is the bedrock on which a society is built. We are facing an education crisis which in turn will become social crisis. Mark my words, the creation of an educational elite could be the most divisive social issue the island has ever faced.

I'm torn by the issue of special interest schools. On the one hand they do need a little extra help just to stay open, on the other they simply shouldn't exist. Catholic schools shouldn't exist either, they should all be thrown in together. Mix, variety and all that jazz.

JC Skinner said...

I'm opposed to religion in schools, and I'm on record saying that in the North it should be forcibly scrapped to remove the sectarian segregation of kids there.
But we are where we are - the state under Dev simply allowed the religions to continue to be the decision makers about education in Ireland, and little has changed till now.
As for an 'educational elite', well, there's three ways of looking at that.
Firstly, we NEED an elite. If you go down the road of NOT allowing the best and brightest to rise to the top, you maim the future of the country.
Secondly, the existence of private schools does not mean they propagate an elite. They perform highly in grades rankings, but so do many state schools too.
Finally, the real level at which an educational elite emerges is at third level, and the introduction of fees is what will implement an income or class division, not the secondary school system.
This state has abnegated its responsibility to the secondary and primary sector forever, and this government, during boom time, failed to address the state of many public schools.
The answer is not to play class war against private schools. The answer is to improve state schools that are struggling. It's not an either/or.