Teachers and teachers’ unions calling for no increase in class sizes, no reform and no change to a system that sees the Government spending €30 million annually in bonus payments to teachers invigilating and marking exam papers are going to be asked to show their work in the margins before the general public accepts that they have come up, or can come up, with the right answer to the problems facing the education system in this country.
Despite the state of the country’s finances, indeed the Eurozone’s finances, the swinging cuts that have taken place across the board in the public service and the troika dictating that more cuts must come out way, teachers’ unions are still clinging on to an old system with all the fervour of an unruly teen refusing to accept that he now has to wear the school uniform. Two of the country’s top academics have now come out, declaring that the Leaving Cert system in this country does not deliver a rounded education, rather it is a test of stamina over independent thought.
More recently, DCU President Prof Brian MacCraith said what everyone who has been through the system has been saying for years: that the current exam system discourages independent thought and critical thinking. But, rather than allow the breath of fresh air to clear out the cobwebs and enliven debate in the classroom, teachers, many of whom are institutionalised in a system that sees them go from classroom to teacher training school back to the class room, are determined to hang in there and hope all this talk of reform blows over.
Responding to revelations that up to €30 million a year in bonus payments is being paid out for teachers to supervise state examinations and mark papers, ASTI General Secretary Pat King said correcting exams is extremely hard work and therefore extra pay should be provided. Mr King also hit out at Government plans to increase class sizes last week, saying any increase to the pupil-teacher ratio would have a devastating effect on students’ educational chances and will be strongly resisted.
His views were echoed by Peter MacMenamin of the Teachers’ Union of Ireland, who said the education system should “effectively tread water” and abandon plans to introduce expensive programmes.
Teachers and teachers’ unions need to call themselves aside during what remains of their two/three month summer holiday and start to imagine what it feels like to wonder if you will have a job next week or whether your job will be there when you come back after your two week break because your hard-pressed employer has realised they could in fact manage without you. That’s the situation facing the rest of the populace and that’s the point at which teachers should begin their negotiations on essential reform.