Ministerial matters

As we head for a general election in Ireland, some time between now and whenever the Greens think is a good idea, speculation has started to build on who might be the next Minister for Education. The general assumption right now is that the next government will be a Fine Gael/Labour coalition, and if so I supopose it could be either Ruairi Quinn for Labour, or Brian Hayes for Fine Gael (as the latter has somewhat recovered his position in the party after his support for Richard Bruton to replace Enda Kenny as Leader).. But actually I’m going to predict it will be Deirdre Clune, Fine Gael. You read it here first.

If Fianna Fail, contrary to most people’s expectations, is still in government, I predict the Minister for education will be a re-run, and will Noel Dempsey.

You could of course have fun and suggest names from Sinn Fein, or maybe Healy Rae’s son.

Maybe others have their own suggestions.

But as I have mentioned before, my real hope is that higher education will be split off from the Department of Education. As long as we are in competition with schools, we’ll always lose in the distribution of resources, and we’ll always be the first to be cut and will be cut hardest. That’s a fact of life.

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7 Comments on “Ministerial matters”

  1. PatrickL Says:

    Some very interesting possibilities there. Ruairi Quinn was excellent recently on the problem of poor literacy that was identified in the OECD report. I’d be glad to see him become Minister for Education.

    That observation leads me to think again about the comment at the end of the post. You point out that “As long as we are in competition with schools, we’ll always lose in the distribution of resources”.

    That is true, and as someone working in third level, the threat of more cuts concerns me. I’m especially concerned that FG’s threat to cut quangos might spell trouble for important entities like IRCHSS and IRCSET. So from that point of view a Labour Minister for Education would be welcome.

    But I do wonder – without having any answers to this question – whether it might just be the right thing for third level to lose out in the competition for funding with first and second level? We have children still taking classes in rat-infested prefabs. There are children and young people with serious disabilities who have been placed in mainstream education, but whose supports have been withdrawn. And as the OECD report shows, a quarter of our 15 year olds are not functionally literate.

    Perhaps splitting higher education away from the DES might be a good thing, since it would mean that we’d no longer have (for example) research funding and special education competing for the same resources.

    But such a split would have some negative consequences. I’d be concerned, for example, about AHSS funding if management of third level moved to, say, the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment.

    And I also think that we need to have a more coherent view of the education system in its entirety, from pre-school to PhD. If the OECD report is correct (which I think we all agree it probably is), then at least a quarter of our school-leavers will not be sufficiently literate to get to third level anyway. While we are all part of the same system, that problem is something that we share a responsibility for.

    So just as a thought-experiment… if we in third level were offered a choice between a sixth round of PRTLI funding OR a massive investment into primary and secondary education, which would we choose? (of course, the answer most people would probably give would be ‘why do we have to choose?’) What I’m really getting at here is that the resources we have could have gone elsewhere, and it’s probably worth considering whether that money has been well spent.

    • Perry Share Says:

      A good start might be to remove the substantial subsidy paid to private secondary schools and to reinvest this money in good quality early childhood care for those on low incomes.

      This will happen around the same time as Ireland’s porcine population moves into our airspace.

      • Vincent Says:

        I’ve been having a look at this. Blackrock et al are but the tip of an iceberg.
        The other day CBS Clonmel was defined as having discriminated against a Tinker boy in the way they select. But this is widespread across the system.

  2. Al Says:

    Why not Sinn Fein?
    Martin Mc Guiness was a good Edu minister up north…

  3. Perry Share Says:

    It will be interesting to see if the long-lost Hunt Report has anything to say on the matter. From an IoT perspective it would be good to see a Minister of Education that was able to deliver some sort of coherent strategy for the sector. This might be more likely if they were also linked in to an area like Enterprise and Employment; on the other hand it might lead them to adopt an overly narrow and instrumentalist viewpoint that would not be to the benefit of most of those in the IoTs.

  4. kevin denny Says:

    I have to say I find it hard to get excited about who will be in that chair. In the main, many of the recent occupants have been underwhelming. And the next one will be dealing with a reduced budget so it will be difficult to shine.
    As for separating HE from the Department,maybe. But there is a danger that its put in with a Employment & Skills type department and the universities are then seen fundamentally as being about job creation. Bang goes scholarship.

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