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O’Dowd undertakes fact-finding trip to North America

Education Minister John O’Dowd is embarking on a four day visit to North America to meet with educationalists in Canada and the USA.

During his trip he will meet with those overseeing education in the cities of Toronto in Ontario and New York before undertaking a series of engagements in New York City.

Speaking in advance of his trip, Mr O’Dowd said: “Since becoming Education Minister, I have spoken of the need to internationalise the debate on education. If we want to have a world-class economy, we must first have a world-class education system.

“That is why I am undertaking a four-day visit to Toronto and New York. Both cities have much to teach us about improving educational attainment.

“In Toronto I want to find out the ingredients that lead to their educational success. In the international PISA (Programme of International Student Assessment) results, Canadian 15-year old students outperform their counterparts from the north of Ireland in the three subject areas assessed: reading, mathematics and science. The performance of students in Ontario is better still than the Canadian average and, crucially, demonstrates not just high achievement, but also a small performance gap between high and low income students.

“This success in ‘breaking the link’ between socio-economic background and educational attainment is notable given the small number of jurisdictions that are successful in achieving this. It will also be a key focus of my visit given the challenging targets in the Programme for Government associated with raising educational attainment for students from disadvantaged backgrounds.”

Following his visit to Toronto, the Minister will travel to New York where he will meet with those involved in the delivery of education before undertaking a series of visits.
Mr O’Dowd continued: “My trip to New York, later in the week, will give me the opportunity to visit a number of education projects in the city to see how schools are engaging parents and communities in children’s learning.

“The importance of parental and community involvement in a child’s education is, I believe, central to helping raise the value of education and the aspiration of children and young people. In recognition of this, last year I launched the ‘Education Works’ campaign to highlight to parents the small steps they can take to assist their child’s learning and the huge impact that can have. I hope that the visit to New York will give me more information on how we can broaden this concept out and raise the value placed on a good education in all our local communities.”

In conclusion, the Minister said: “These visits will help begin the process of internationalising the debate on education here. It will take a further, important step forward later in the autumn with the publication of an Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) report into our own education system. This report, carried out earlier in the year by a team of international experts, will provide us with a basis on which to build on the strong foundations we possess and develop the world-class education system we all want.”

Notes to editors:

1. The Department of Education’s ‘Education Works’ campaign encourages families to play, talk, read and count with their child and to ‘Get Involved Because Education Works’. Watch out for the ads on television, radio and outdoor locations. The campaign highlights the vital role families can play in helping children do well at school and improve their life chances. Visit http://www.nidirect.gov.uk/education-works for more information.

Watch the TV ad on the Department’s YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/thedeptofeducation

2. View photos from the Department of Education in our collection at http://www.flickr.com/niexecutive

Belfast Telegraph