Tag Archives: Ireland

Scanning the education news from the UK and Canada

stream_imgOur latest scan of education news in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, Wales, and Canada, shows considerable attention to teachers: shortages of teachers in Scotland and England; “redundancies” and elimination of teaching positions in Northern Ireland and Wales; contract negotiations with the teacher unions in Ontario; and efforts to improve teacher training in Wales and address teacher turnover in Alberta.

The blog from the Institute of Education at the University of London has also had a series of post over the past month addressing key issues in England including income inequality, a new plan to penalize schools that are “coasting” (failing to increase student outcomes), a recent report on the (possible) effects of “free schools”; and the latest reforms related to initial teacher training.

“Local authorities reveal 470 teaching posts are vacant in Scotland,” stv

“Teacher supply agencies searching as far as Canada and Singapore to plug staffing gaps,” The Independent (UK)

“800 school staff redundancies after funding cuts” ITV News (Wales) 

“Ontario teacher unions agree to resume negotiations with Liberals in bid to agree to contracts,” National Post 

“University of Calgary program boosts training for rural teachers,” CBC News

“Education Minister endorses ‘radical plan’ to transform teacher training,” Penarth Times (Wales)

IOE Blog: 

Income distribution in times of austerity: why the cuts are likely to widen the gap, Nicola Pensiero

‘Coasting schools’: learning from international ‘best practice’,

Paul Morris & Christine Han

Free school effects: an impartial review, Francis Green

Teacher training and teacher supply, Chris Husbands

Teacher collaboration and professional development around the world

Last month, at the American Educational Research Association Conference held in Chicago, I attended a presentation that offered multiple perspectives on the recent findings in the 2013 Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) report. As the OECD explains, the TALIS report asks teachers and principals who they are, where they teach and how they feel about their work.

Linda Darling-Hammond focused on what the TALIS report can teach us about teachers in the United States. She explained that teachers in the U.S. have insufficient time for planning and collaboration during the school day, which means that they are often left to do this work alone at home. U.S. teachers report that they experience less helpful feedback (coming from principals more often than peers), and sporadic professional development. Yet, collaborative practices and self-efficacy were indicated as drivers of job satisfaction.

Andy Hargreaves argued that while collaboration can be important to job satisfaction, we need to develop a much deeper understanding of what effective collaboration looks like. He argued that we need to know more about why collaborative practices are not always embraced by teachers. As self-efficacy was also related to job satisfaction, Hargreaves suggested that we also think about collective efficacy—the belief that we have in what we can do together, not just alone. Further work needs to be done, he explained, to develop our understanding of when collaboration is useful, when it is simplistic, and when it takes the form of “contrived collegiality.”

With this attention to collaboration and professional development, I decided to conduct a scan of education news around the world to see what I could learn about how different countries are addressing the topic. This scan showed that countries are grappling with several issues, such as the quality, time, and funding for professional development.

In British Columbia, the government is proposing to create professional development standards. Education Minister Peter Fassbender views the establishment of such standards as an act that would put the teaching profession on par with other professions, such as the legal, accounting, or nursing professions. While teachers are currently required to attend professional development sessions, new legislation would determine what those session cover; however, Fassbender says there will be no increase in funding to support the new standards. Concerns have been raised about the privitization of professional development, and the lack of teacher input.

In Australia, ACT teachers have spent a year arguing that they need guaranteed time each week for professional development and collaboration. According to Union Secretary Glenn Fowler, “Teachers do not trust their employer to protect them from snow-balling workloads, and we say to the employer if there is no guaranteed and quarantined time made in the new agreement, we will never see it, and that time may continue to get stripped away from teachers.”

Meanwhile, teachers in Ireland oppose a plan for mandatory continuing professional development (CPD). While most Irish teachers place high value on CPD, a majority fear that “if compulsory, it would promote a ‘compliance mentality’ with minimal real engagement.”

New Zealand has established Communities of Schools as part of their Investing in Educational Success initiative. These schools will set their own achievement goals and will be funded to allow teachers the time to “work with and learn from each other, supported by new teaching and leadership roles.” While funding for these new positions is proving controversial, as one principal shared, “You have to change things. You can’t stay in your same structures, if you do you will end up with the same result: busy schools that are too busy to share.”

Larry Flanagan, general secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS), has noticed how busy teachers in Scotland are as well, and called for a period of “consolidataion and calm.” Flanagan said teachers needed breathing space after the delivery of the Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) and new exams:”The last thing Scottish teachers need to hear at the moment is that the pace of change needs to be stepped up.” He called for additional resources and support for professional development.

Deirdre Faughey

News scan: Germany and Ireland

This week, a scan of the news coming from Europe led us to put several links on Twitter; however, over the past year we’ve noticed more than one report on related topics. Here is a brief description of news coming out of Germany and Ireland. Next week, we will take a closer look at reports coming out of Central and South American countries.

Germany

According to a new study, Germany will not be able to meet ambitious education goals the country set for itself in 2008. Angela Merkel aimed to cut the dropout rate from 8% to 4%, but as of 2013 the rate stood at 5.7%. The German government is also struggling to reduce the number of young people (aged 20-29) who were without any professional qualification.  Interestingly, another report pointed out that there has been an ongoing Twitter debate (in German) about the country’s educational system, sparked by one girl who tweeted, “I am almost 18 and have no idea about taxes, rent or insurance. But, I can analyze a poem. In 4 languages.” The debate is raging over the purpose of an education and whether or not schools should prepare students for “life.”

 

Ireland

Teachers are protesting in Ireland because they disagree with government reforms that aim to move student evaluations away from standardized testing and towards a performance-based model, which would allow portfolios and other options. Teachers are concerned that the new assessments will force teachers to judge their own students, rather than advocate for them. They also object to the amount of time teachers will need to spend on the new assessments. Pasi Sahlsburg responded to the teachers’ plan to strike by saying that teachers need to take on more complex roles in order to boost the profession. In addition to seeing themselves differently, teachers need to see the students differently–and that’s what the alternative assessment model is all about. According to Sahlsburg, the situation in Ireland is “unique globally in many ways. Internationally it is more common that teachers are the ones that insist more freedom and autonomy in assessing and grading their students rather than the other way round.” In this case, an additional issue might be that teachers are wary of new, complex practices that they don’t have the capacity to carry out—practices that might seem unnecessary, particularly after Irish students just achieved test results that surpassed those the country set for the year 2020.

Deirdre Faughey

University rankings: past, present, future

College and university rankings have been in the news recently, both in the United States and around the world as the Times Higher Education (THE) released their World University Rankings for 2014-2015 on October 2nd. THE describes the ranking as “the only global university performance tables to judge world class universities across all of their core missions – teaching, research, knowledge transfer and international outlook.” As usual, universities in the United States hold the top spots, with CalTech topping the list for the fourth year in a row, and Harvard and Stanford coming in second and third place.

Since the publication, countries around the world have taken note and interpreted the results in a variety of ways. The Washington Post reports that the rise in the ranking of Asian universities is “worrying” for the U.S, despite what the THE called the “utter domination” of US universities in the ranking, with U.S. schools earning 7 out of the top 10 positions. The Guardian called attention to the success of Switzerland’s universities in the ranking system, noting that for such a small country they tend to earn top positions. The Malay Mail Online raised questions about why Malaysian universities, which the country’s leaders claim are among the “best in the world,” opted out, noting their low ranking in years past. New Delhi TV pointed out that India now has two universities ranked in the top 300; however, Indian universities have yet to make it to the “definitive top 200.” The Irish Independent noted that the country’s two top universities slid in the rankings and attributed the drop to the country’s inadequate funding of higher education institutions. Similarly, tvnz.co.nz reports that the decline of New Zealand’s universities in the rankings is related to a lack of financial support.

While these recent news reports focus only on the most recent THE rankings, other ranking systems for higher education have been making the news as well — with a different set of results. For example, the QS ranking gave the top spot to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Malaysian universities do participate in this survey, with The Malaysian Insider reporting that the University Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) placed in the world’s top universities under 50 years old.

In the U.S., President Obama has introduced the idea that colleges ought to be rated according to measures that allow students and parents to understand the value of the education they receive there. In recognition of the fact that college tuition has skyrocketed over the past few decades, this rating system is being promoted (and debated) as one way to reduce the cost of college tuition, while also identifying the schools—and even subject areas—that will provide students with the most “bang for the buck.” While thinking of college primarily as an investment in a student’s financial (not intellectual) development might seem to miss what some might see as the point of an undergraduate educational experience, The New York Times recently reported that the American worker with a college degree now earns 74% more than their counterparts with only a high school diploma. David Deming, a Harvard professor who studies the economics of education, is quoted in the article as saying, “In the U.S., more so than in other countries, you as a family are making a larger and riskier investment in your own future…. College pays off on average but it has a ton of risk. Lower-income families can’t buffer that shock.” The fact that a college degree might have the potential to dramatically alter the trajectory of a person’s financial life, combined with the fact that income inequality is increasing in the United States, means that greater attention will be paid to colleges and universities that can prove themselves to be a healthy investment. To that end, the web-based professional networking company LinkedIn has now created its own ranking system—one that ranks universities based on career outcomes. Even H&R Block has created a chart linking college majors to individual earnings. The New York Times also released its own ranking, this one to measure economic diversity at the top colleges (with Vassar at the top of this list).

While all of this information can be head-spinning, there is still more. The Bureau of Labor Statistics just released their own ranking of jobs that will be most in demand in the future. According to this list, by the year 2022 the U.S. will need more than 3.2 million registered nurses; the jobs that will be least in demand are those that require advanced university degrees. Considering this information, and other sets of facts, the effort to rank the schools of today based on what will be needed in the world of tomorrow seems daunting.

Considering the history of university rankings in the United States, some say that the value of an education is indeed undefinable, and that therefore universities are unrankable. The following podcast offers some interesting history on higher education in the U.S. Here, educational historians share what they know about the U.S. government’s early efforts to rank colleges (with the first ranking system created in 1910, ranking 344 schools), and efforts to make a college education more affordable and “practical.” They raise questions about the purpose of a college education that might be applicable to our understanding of what is going on in the world of international university ranking systems today.

Deirdre Faughey

 
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Widespread call to improve vocational education

Christopher Furlong, BBC

Christopher Furlong, BBC

News reports from this past month have shown that many countries are rethinking the role of vocational training in their education systems.

In Denmarkwww.dr.dk reports that the government is considering new academic entrance requirements to vocational programs that some fear would result in thousands of students being barred from such programs.

Denmark is not alone in it’s effort to “raise the bar” on vocational education. The BBC reported that a survey of British employers showed almost 60% believe the government does not do enough to provide students with the vocational training they need.  The Guardian has also reported that a new standard will be applied to vocational education, allowing for diplomas endorsed by companies such as Kawasaki, Honda, and Volvo, but also hotels and even the Royal Ballet School, which is backing a qualification in performing arts.

Similarly, Thailand is also pledging to reform education to meet the demands of employers by reforming their system of vocational education. As reported in The Nation, the Education Ministry shared plans to work with the private sector to jointly design curriculum and training programs that give students real-life experiences as well as an academic education. The Thai government will also work with Germany, Australia, Japan and China – countries that have large investments in Thailand. However, in an earlier article, The Nation also reported that some researchers have expressed concerns that the government could still be doing more.

Similar news reports, collected from online sources over the past month, show a widespread call to improve vocational education, to reconsider the academic curriculum, and for educators to work alongside employers. These reports can be found coming from countries such as MalaysiaNigeriaThe United Arab EmiratesLiberiaSudanGhanaIreland, and India.

Ireland

Ruairí Quinn calls for “inclusive debate” on education in Ireland

Donal Walsh, SchoolDays.ie (December 18, 2012)

Ireland: Google Images

In response to the recently released TIMSS and PIRLS scores, Ruairí Quinn, Ireland’s Education Minister, wants to reassess the amount of time students spend studying each subject. While Irish students performed at an above average level, the students of Northern Ireland achieved better results in mathematics. Quinn believes that the solution is to ensure a higher standard of knowledge amongst primary school teachers, and to increase the amount of time the students spend studying math and science. He said: “I have asked the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment to review the recommended time allocations for all subjects in the primary school.”

For more information:

What will happen in education in 2013?

Ireland

Bishops oppose axeing [sic] class religion rule
Donnelly, K.  The Independent (11 April 2012)

Although they broadly support recent education proposals by Education Minister Ruairi Quinn, bishops in Ireland “are opposed to the proposed scrapping of an old primary school rule, Rule 68, that states religion should underpin every aspect of daily school life.”  Quinn established the Forum on Patronage and Pluralism, which issued a report suggesting that eliminating Rule 68 will allow further respect for Ireland’s increasingly diverse population.  Finn said, “We live in a changed and changing nation. There is a general acceptance that a greater diversity of primary schooling is necessary and I welcome the readiness among partners to embrace this.”  Father Michael Drumm, secretary of the Catholic Schools Partnership, believes the rule can be rephrased but not deleted entirely.  This is a contentious issue, as most schools in Ireland are state-funded but Catholic run.