NOTICE - PATHWAYS EDUCATION & CAREER GUIDANCE CONFERENCE 2020
Unfortunately, due to the ongoing concern around the spread of COVID-19, The Advertiser Newspaper Group have had to take the decision, for the safety of all, to postpone this event.
The feedback to our event had been very positive, with full attendance expected, and all our exhibition spaces sold out. We were looking forward to informing students on their future education and career options.
If you have any questions, please contact Máire McCarthy on [email protected] or call 091 530951.
Brian Mooney: Education Matters
‘Happiness is waking up and feeling energised, and looking forward to the day, that is the most important thing’, Brian Mooney responds when asked what advice he would give his sixteen year old self. ‘Money doesn’t matter for happiness’, Brian continues as we discuss many of the issues relating to Irish education. Recognised nationally as something of a sage on the Irish education system, he is the ‘go to’ man for many at all levels of the system, from teenagers struggling with career choices or other difficulties with which they need guidance, to various Ministers for Education who seek his advice on a variety of policy platforms.
HELPING STUDENTS ACHIEVE THEIR AMBITIONS
Brian loves what he does, and his passion for education shines as brightly today as at any time during his distinguished career. It is clear he lives by the advice he would have given himself almost fifty years ago.
A brief list of some of his many achievements accompanies this article, but it is clear that his many accolades take a distant second place to the satisfaction he gets when seeing a student he has helped, achieve their ambition. Many entrepreneurial opportunities that would have certainly allowed him achieve great personal wealth were turned down when faced with the reality that he had a teaching vocation, and this was never going to change.
Brian’s father was a senior civil servant, and observing the workings of the civil service close up gave him a great insight into how to get things done when dealing with those who worked in the department of education and other areas of the public service.
RESEARCH ALL OPTIONS
‘There is enormous choice for students, and it is important to research all options, not just in the CAO system, but also in apprenticeships, in PLC’s, in studying abroad’, advises Brian, ‘and it is important that you empower yourself to make the best decision’. He has seen high achievers go on to secure the best qualifications, and work in areas such as medicine, and yet go to their job with a pain in their chest, because they chose the wrong option for their career. Students are sometimes under parental and other pressure to do certain courses, because they achieve the required points, though they may be totally unsuited to the course. ‘Go with your gut, it is much easier to go to lectures you enjoy. If your heart is set on a course or a career, and you don’t have the points, look at all the other possible routes to qualification, whether through a PLC or FE qualification or studying in Europe. Get your FE distinction, and show that you are the person for this course. In some cases, up to 10% of course places are kept for people who do not meet the initial points requirements’. ‘Look at the course in detail, and examine the subjects you will be studying: will attending these lectures get you out of bed on a freezing January morning?’ is a test Brian would apply. The information is all there, be diligent. Too many students drop out, saying ‘I didn’t realise…’. ‘Don’t look for the place with the coolest reputation, or where most of your friends are going; this may well lead to the wrong decision.’
‘There are so many options: make sure to study the courses as they are all listed on qualifax’.
Brian is excited by the opportunities that Brexit may present, and sees great potential for Ireland as a bridge between the EU and the English speaking world. He also sees opportunities for Irish students to study abroad for careers where they would not meet the points required for entry here in Ireland. There are hundreds of courses in European colleges for which Irish students are eligible, and he advocates their potential to provide solutions for when bottlenecks arise in the Irish system. If he was Minister for Education, he would put support structures in place to assist Irish students who wish to attend these colleges. For eg. to study physiotherapy in The Netherlands you need two H4’s and four passes, in Ireland the points can be as high as five hundred and forty. ‘When we see demand is going to outstrip supply, the Minister should plan for this, and have the necessary support structures in place for Irish students who wish to study in Europe’. He would encourage the next Minister for Education to set up a strategic planning unit to examine the potential of closer ties with Europe, particularly for courses with higher points. A subvention and support system should be put in place to help these students. When speaking recently to the Dutch Ambassador, Brian was told that Irish students are very welcome in The Netherlands, not only for their participation in Dutch university life, but also because people in The Netherlands hope that many Irish students will continue their careers in that country. Those who make this journey should be aware that the academic year in The Netherlands is almost two months longer than ours, and drop out rates can be high in the early years. These courses are all conducted through English.
Brian has seen many changes in the number of students from different nationalities going through the Irish education system. He is proud of how this integration has taken place with little difficulty. He has also seen the re-emergence in recent years of the importance of apprenticeships and trades. Many students are far more suited to these than to conventional lecture theatres.
When asked about the increased stress on students these days, Brian is not so sure. While acknowledging that the leaving cert, especially, can be a difficult time, Brian has also worked with many older people who experienced great difficulties when they were teenagers in industrial schools. ’Students talk more now, and usually have someone they can talk to, which is a very good thing’, he says. ‘Issues were often swept under the carpet in previous times, and things are much better now. The role of the modern Guidance Counsellor can often involve far more counselling than career guidance’.
GIVING IS THE KEY TO HAPPINESS
During our discussion, Brian often returns to the theme of job satisfaction. What he has learned is the enormous satisfaction one gets from teaching the young. ’Seeing someone content because they followed the advice you have given them’ offers him the greatest reward. ‘Giving is the key to happiness’ he concludes, and though you have heard this before, it takes on added meaning when the speaker is the example.
Brian is an avid follower of the political scene, and is closely following GE 2020. No matter what the outcome, you can be sure the Minister will come calling.
Brian Mooney will be speaking at The Pathways Colleges and Careers event on March 30th, 2020.
He will also contribute regularly to the Pathways Education section of The Galway Advertiser.Brian is an educational columnist with the Irish Times.
He is a regular contributor on the Sean O’Rourke and Pat Kenny shows on national radio. He retired from Oatlands College, Dublin last October, after 58 years as both a student and teacher at the college, where he provided Guidance Counselling support to the college’s 550 students.
In November 2019, at the Aviva stadium, he was conferred with an honorary degree by the National University of Ireland in recognition of his ‘exceptional contribution’ to Irish education.
He received a ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’ in 2018 as part of the National Teaching Awards. He was President of The Institute of Guidance Counsellors from 2001 to 2006.
He was a Director of the Education Finance Board from 2006 to 2012. Among his publications is the Education Matters annual yearbook, of which he is the Managing Editor.