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Education System in Ireland: Part II

Saturday, March 29, 2008

(Had to leave in middle of updating links, will finish links and formating soon)

As I stated in my previous blog post on education I would write about what some of the unions are talking about in the world of under funded and neglected education in Ireland.

There are basically three major teachers’ unions in Ireland, the Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI), which is headed by experienced (and new) general secretary Peter MacMenamin; TUI members generally teach in areas that are economically disadvantaged; the Association for Secondary Teachers, Ireland (ATSI), which is headed by general secretary John White, who is opposed by a large group within the ATSI; the dynamics of the ATSI are quite complex as there is much internal dissension within the union, the union also tends to take moderate approaches and emphasizes negotiations, which has lead to it having a low profile in recent years; and then there is the large and highly influential Irish National Teachers Organization (INTO) which has a very good organizational body and can draw out numbers to its protests and industrial actions, and apparently plans them quite well.

All three unions opened up their conferences on March 25th with each union’s leader making an opening speech, mostly slamming the Minister of Education Mary Hanafin for breaking promises the unions and Irish people by not reducing class sizes or giving adequate funding (from five years ago).

The TUI:

Voted in favour of a one-day strike…unless problems of discipline in classrooms be addressed immediately…

While more than 120 schools applied for behavioral support services…just 50 post-primary schools around the country currently have access to those services.

As I wrote in the previous blog post ASTI Greta Harrison lambasted the government on failing its teachers and students on a wide range of issues.

The next day saw the three unions tackle a number of issues and vote on a few of them.

The ATSI stated that schools needed to be penalized for shirking their responsibilities in taking in enough students with special needs. The ATSI also tackled the issue of paper work for teachers:

Teachers are being distracted from their real work by a populist modernisation program that places bureaucratic burdens on schools involving “endless paper trials…”

The INTO tackled LGBTQI rights regarding Section 37 of the Employment Equality Acts (yeah, funny name for something that discriminates against folks) which essentially states that:

schools that promote certain religious values [can] take “necessary action to prevent an employee from undermining the religious ethos of the institution.”

Shelia Crowley, who is the chair of the INTO’s Lesbian Gay and Bixexual (LGB) teachers’ group said:

“We feel that if we live openly as LGB teachers in schools under denomination mangement, then this could be construed as undermining the religious ethos of an institution and could lead to our subsequent dismissal.”

In yesterdays Irish Times LGBTQI teachers at the ATSI conference stated they:

faced problems in their staff rooms, classrooms and with their management of their schools

“Form many gay, lesbian, and bisexual people an Irish school can be a very chilling place to work.” [said an anonymous delegate]

Ireland has quite the history of LGBTQI persecution and to be openly gay in much of the society is still a risk.

At the March 26th INTO conference Seán Flynn reported:

Sub-standard conditions are still the norm in many primary schools, the INTO conference was told…

These conditions have gotten so bad in certain school distracts that it has caused parent’s to rally together and protest the government to fully fund their schools.

The TUI also covered racism in its agenda that day:

Racism in schools is a crisis waiting to happen unless appropriate resources are invested now…

The union said that language training was not up to snub and that some schools didn’t even provide proper language training, or other support services for that matter, for their immigrant communities. Assistant general secretary of the TUI Annette Dolan said:

“If we are to work against the development of racism in our schools, teachers must be trained and equipped to impart respect, tolerance and understanding between Irish and non-Irish students in the classroom.”

These are just some, of the many, problems that students, parents, and teachers are facing in Ireland’s schools. And until these problems are seriously addressed, all of the talk about a “modern” Ireland and the “Celtic Tiger” boom years is all for naught.

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