Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 27 November 2014

It's time for our education system to make the grade

After years in deadlock under Caitriona Ruane, something is happening in education here.

Ruane's successor, John O'Dowd, is ready to take on underperforming schools and Peter Robinson seems prepared to put his money where his mouth is on integration.

This is all good and so is Professor Richard Salisbury's courage in exposing the "enduring myth" that our schools are all world-beaters.

Good results at the top end are marred by the numbers leaving school with no, or low, qualifications.

This creates a skills-shortage, which puts us at a disadvantage compared to other EU regions when it comes to attracting investment.

We are also short of doctors, nurses and other medical specialists to the extent that we are reduced to poaching them from third-world countries.

It is time to refocus our entire educational effort. We don't need so many arts graduates aspiring to be teachers but finding no jobs in a reduced school estate.

The priority is to match supply to demand by training fewer teachers, making entry to the profession more competitive, but offering enough jobs for all those who make the grade.

Society needs more people studying 'Stem' subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), perhaps lowering entry standards to get things started.

And we need to plan as one community - not two.

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