In most European Countries students can go into a stream of education for the trades at the age of 16. Why does our system of Education keep pushing everyone towards the Leaving Cert and towards a 3rd Level Degree for all? Is it because we don’t have teachers qualified to teach any other system of 2rd Level Education bar the academic stream? Or is there something going on with “Irish Mammies and Daddies” that they look down any form of education which is does not have a place at a 3rd level Institution as its goal and they would be embarrassed among their friends if young Johnny decided he wanted to be a plumber rather than an teacher.
The former VECs, now the Educational Training Boards were founded to educate those whose parents did not have the money to send their children to Secondary School. Free Secondary education for all only came in 1967. From then on The VEC schools began to struggle for identity, they had always supported students who were interested in Trades but as they moved more main stream so did the teachers they employed coming from the most part with the H Dip from Universities. So the pursuit of the Leaving Cert for students all students become the ultimate goal. The eased it in with the Leaving Cert Applied.
The truth is that the Irish system of 2nd Level Education is Leaving Cert driven… even with Community Colleges which are under the auspices of the Educational Training Board, very few of their teachers are not trained to teach woodwork or metal work. Few if any of their School Principals or board members of the IETB(Irish Educational Training Board) would have a background in the Trades and Technical form of Teacher Training. That is the major problem.
Again most of these schools have limited facilities for the teaching of carpentry, block laying, plastering, tiling or plumbing, household painting or electrical work. They now leaning towards the respectability of running Gael Scoileanna, competing with the Secondary schools, leaving behind the embarrassment of being seen as a lesser form of education, “school snobbery” still exists in society to this day. They think good results by students in the Leaving Cert will put behind them. They have lost their uniqueness in their pursuit of respectability and deprived a large cohort of students the chance of becoming skilled trades people.
When the Construction Industry get back to business, which it will in the immediate future we will not have enough of the native skilled trades workers to take up the jobs. We could bring teachers from Poland and Germany who have the trade skills to teach in our Community Schools if we don’t have them here.
We should have more than one stream of 2nd level Education, at the moment we have a one size fits all… it is archaic and does not allow for the varied ways students can learn. What we are doing is furthering a system which is a kin to The Murder Machine which Pearse wrote about. We should “student centred education” rather than Leaving Cert centred Education and allow every student to be the best he can be with the talents given to him. “To be the best tin whistler he can be.”