Belfast Telegraph

Varadkar launches plan to increase diversity in education

The Action Plan sets out more than 280 actions for this year

Leo Varadkar (Brian Lawless/PA)
Leo Varadkar (Brian Lawless/PA)

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has launched a new action plan for education, promoting female participation and diversity.

The Empowering through Learning initiative sets out more than 280 actions for this year including a strategy for foreign languages, promoting Stem (science, technology, engineering and maths) and female participation in the field, and school patronage diversity.

Other priorities include teacher supply, Irish-medium education, and a renewed focus on apprenticeships and traineeships.

“Approximately one in four people in Ireland are students – children, teenagers, adults, people from all backgrounds,” Mr Varadkar said.

“An investment in education is an investment in them, it’s an investment in the future and in all of us.”

At the launch, Mr Varadkar was asked about concerns flagged by geography teachers in a recent open letter after the subject was dropped as a core subject in the Junior Cert cycle.

“More broadly, what we’re trying to do by modernising and reforming the Junior Cert and Senior Cert cycle is to move away from traditional subjects to a system of long courses and short courses, for subjects like well-being or climate change, for example.

“I appreciate the request and I get the demand very often, to make 20 or 30 subjects compulsory, and add in new ones all the time, but we have to bear in mind overloading the curriculum, and having so many subjects would be counterproductive.”

A review is under way regarding restoring history as a core subject after it was dropped in September. It is due to report at the end of March.

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Leo Varadkar at the launch with with Joe McHugh (Brian Lawless/PA)

Education Minister Joe McHugh said his own opinion of dropping history is on the record.

“The importance of learning from the past and the times that we live in, I’ve asked for all that to be looked at in terms of the review,” Mr McHugh said.

“With regards to any other subject, I don’t have any plans to review any other subject.”

Mr Varadkar and Mr McHugh were joined by higher education minister Mary Mitchell O’Connor and training and skills minister John Halligan as the initiative was launched at the National College of Art and Design on Thursday.

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