Tanaiste and Minister for Education Mary Coughlan must urgently address the “one size fits all” philosophy that is prominent in Irish schools, says Galway West Senator Fidelma Healy-Eames.
A recently released report entitled ‘Staying in Education:A New Way Forward’ took more than 18 months to collate and revealed why early school leavers feel they have little option as such is the lack of support or understanding they receive.
A total of 41 early school leavers from ‘at risk’ groups were interviewed, and a 25 member expert group of practitioners and researchers studied the findings and gave their recommendations.
Senator Healy-Eames says, “My motivation for seeking this study stemmed from the number of children I met in the early years at second-level, particularly boys with poor literacy and in low streamed classes. The second level system was completely wrong for them. They hadn’t a hope of passing written exams. They had lost pace with school, had little or no motivation, struggled to keep up and as a result couldn’t wait to get out.”
Senator Healy-Eames believes there should be an immediate review of the second level school curriculum to make it more relevant to the needs of young people who are at risk of leaving school early stating,
“One in six of our children is dropping out of school prior to completion of the Leaving Cert. Too often these ‘forgotten’ young people are unemployed, can’t read or write, get into trouble or into drugs, end up in prison and are social welfare statistics,” she says. “Even when there was a boom their life chances were extremely limited,” she adds.
Senator Healy-Eames says that the engagement and retention of boys who are abandoning school at a much higher rate than girls needs to be addressed, and she says that reform of the school system is a necessity to convince ‘at risk’ children to complete theuir studies. “Any school system that relies on a ‘one size fits all’ model as the Irish system largely does, is fundamentally wrong. It doesn’t provide equality of opportunity,” she says adding; ”As policy makers, it is incumbent on us to find out where the system is falling down, attempt to right the wrongs and work towards contributing to better lives for all our children.