Twenty five bonus points in addition to the rest of the points equals new choices for many students who received their Leaving Cert results recently.
Many emotions followed the opening of those envelopes which contained their paths to their futures. But what does this mean for the students and the parents in this country which provides free education?
Bank of Ireland recently released a survey which showed that the cost of sending a child through our free education at third level would be more than €40,000 for a three year degree if he or she is living away from home.
This gets talked about every year around this time, and it seems that there is little or no movement from any section to change the current structure of funding children through our third level system.
This year however, the option of a loan to fund the college registration fee is being put in place for the duration of the student’s education, converting to higher rates of interest after graduation; it does not go far enough to address the whole area of funding.
But there is movement and that is a good thing. There are now loan schemes to undergraduates, loan schemes to postgraduates paid to the colleges, a review of the grant system is underway which of course is not without its critics even within the proposers’ own political parties. There is a review of the impact of maths, a review of funding for universities and so on.
What would be even better would be if all the parts would be looked at together in a cohesive manner to set up a properly funded, fairly subsidised, just entry level system of third level education in Ireland which would ensure that those who chose third level make the right choices and are fairly resourced and where the universities are equally fairly resourced. This system should also ensure that those that do not choose to go on to third level should be catered for in a training systems that will ensure they are placed in apprentices and placements or support them in a work environment.
Back to the issue of bonus points for maths, Minister Ruairi Quinn, who visited Calasanctius College in Oranmore on the day that 56,000 students received their results, stated that this was a good day for the Leaving Certificate, but said he would wait until the CAO points came out to start any sort of review of their impact. Minister Quinn also stated that all these changes referred to above are complex and would require time to iron them out. It is therefore important that we don’t rush to judgement too quickly and that there is not too much experimentation with the education system all at the same time.
Industry leaders in general responded positively to the changes, but warned it will take this and much more to bring the Irish education up to world leading standards. There needs to be a much wider debate on the issues of points, standards, funding and so on at a less emotional time than now. But it’s a bit like maths, let’s start with our one, two, three and work up from there.