Ireland’s struggle to be a centre for science and technology
For the past few years we have all known that Ireland has a problem: we need to be a centre of excellence in which research and development and high value investment can find a natural home; but our indigenous population has been turning away from the subjects – at school and university – that could make this vision a reality: science and mathematics. There are a number of issues: the lack of a proper primary science curriculum; totally inadequate science laboratories in secondary schools; the perceived complexity and difficulty of mathematics and science as school subjects; the demanding nature of these subjects at third level; and so forth.
As I said, all of this has been known long enough; it has been confirmed by various expert groups set up by the government, including the Expert Group on Future Skills, and the Task Force on the Physical Sciences. The latter group made some very significant recommendations in 2002, but the government never even issued a response, and indeed the website on which the report was published has now even been taken down.
Just this week the Minister for Education and Science has announced the establishment of yet another expert group, which will look at how the Department of Education and the private sector can improve technology in the classroom. It is tempting to say that we don’t need more reviews, we know what the situation is. What we do need is action.
One possible measure that has been proposed by a number of organisations, including the employer’s body IBEC, the government’s enterprise and science advisory body Forfas, the Irish Software Association, and Engineers Ireland – that bonus points should be added at Leaving Certificate level for honours Mathematics – has been ‘ruled out’ by the Minister for Education in a Dail answer. He did this despite the fact that it is very doubtful whether this is a matter the Minister can take a decision on at all, since the points system is controlled by the universities themselves through the CAO.
We must urgently get beyond the stage of talking and get on with doing. The risks we run are obvious enough, and recent comments by major companies that they cannot get enough employees skilled in science and technology are enough of a red alert. There needs to be an action plan, and it needs to be announced at once. And though some of my university colleagues disagree with me on this, I think that we should not dismiss the idea of bonus points for mathematics. We cannot afford to see the present trend continue.Explore posts in the same categories: higher education, science, technology, university