We Don't Need No Innovation #43 #cong17

By Michelle Gallen.

Minister for Education Richard Bruton TD has set the ambition that within a decade, Ireland’s education service will be the best in Europe.

How will our kids win that race? Well let's start at the start.

Imagine 100 five years olds, all lined up at a starting line. They’re getting ready to take part in one of the most important races of their lives – the dash for a Primary school place.

First over the line gets into Ireland’s best school, to be taught by engaged teachers, enjoying wonderful facilities in classrooms that are not packed to bursting point. Those who finish last won’t be so lucky.

The kids are itching to run – wild with excitment. But before they start, the judge asks the children a series of important questions.

Can every child who has been baptised take 2 steps forward?

  • Children who have not been baptised – the children of atheists, humanists, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, all stay where they are. The Christian kids jump ahead.

Can children whose parents attended Ireland’s best school take 2 steps forward? Add a bonus 2 steps if any of your grandparents also attended.

  • Children of mums and dads lucky enough to have already attended Ireland’s best school take 2 steps forward. Those with another generation of privilege beyond that take another step forward.

Can children who have attended Ireland fanciest preschool now take 2 steps forward?

  • Children whose parents had the resources to pay for a fancy preschool step forward...the other kids stay where they are.

Now take one step forward for every year you have been on our waiting list.

Kids who were registered in the first year of your life take 5 steps.

Kids who were reigstered in the second year take 4 steps and so on.

Kids who have recently moved to Ireland – the children of Irish natives who have returned home, the children of international communities who have chosen to live and work in Ireland, the children of refugees, the children of people who moved for work, the children of families who moved due to violence or divorce – they stay where they are – no steps forward for them.

Finally, can any children who cannot afford our race fee of €100 please leave the race.

Children from low income families – regardless of ability – step out of the race.

The judge is finally ready to fire the starting pistol.

There no longer is a long line of kids at the starting line. Some kids stand 13 steps ahead of others having been given a huge advantage through no action, no merit of their own. Some kids are 4 or 5 steps ahead of the starting line – enough to keep them in the race – definitely better than those standing on the starting line. Many kids stand on the sidelines – forced out of the race before it even starts. And things only get worse at secondary level.

With this as our starting point, tell me how, in a decade, will our education service will be the best in Europe?

We don’t need innovation in education. We need fair play.

A level playing field will lead to every child getting the school place they need.

And then we can tackle the complex issue of how we can innovate in the education system so our kids learn what they need to know to live, work and play in a world so different from ours that we can barely imagine it.

CongRegation © Eoin Kennedy 2017 eoin at congregation dot ie