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Policy issues concerning Education

Mitigating the impact of Covid-19 learning loss on our children and young people requires significant, long-term resourcing. It is vital that the Covid Learning and Supports Scheme is extended beyond the current timeline and expanded to deal with the long-term impacts of learning losses due to Covid-19 induced school closures.

Investment in education at all levels is essential in Budget 2022.  The Covid-19 crisis has generated the greatest disruption in educational opportunity worldwide in a generation and has exacerbated existing inequalities within our education system.  Without sufficient levels of investment this impact will be felt for generations.

Social Justice Ireland’s report ‘Ireland and the Europe 2020 Strategy - A review of the social inclusion aspects of Ireland’s National Reform Programme’ has found that overall, current trends in Irish public policy are running counter to the promotion of ‘inclusive growth,’ which is one of the three key priorities which underlie the Europe 2020 Strategy. 

A report from the Educational Research Centre examining the home ‎and school learning environments of 15-year olds in DEIS and non-DEIS schools provides a detailed examination of the home and backgrounds of students in DEIS and non-DEIS schools and examines broader issues including wellbeing, the value that students place on education, their motivation, and aspirations for future learning and employment.

The latest publication in the Growing Up in Ireland study provides very useful information on the lives of nine-year-olds, and the impact of gender and family circumstances on the experiences and developmental outcomes.  Here we look at the main findings in terms of education and cognitive development. 

The impact of Covid-19 on our education system cannot be understated. It will widen the learning gap between rich and poor, impose long-term losses of income on all students - with disadvantaged students suffering greater learning losses and greater impacts on their lifetime earnings.  It could reverse much of the progress made on addressing educational disadvantage to date.

The prospect of a return to high unemployment rates post pandemic is a daunting one and reiterates the need to ensure that the labour force is equipped and educated to meet the challenges ahead. 

Training, upskilling and reskilling will be fundamental to Government’s response to impact of COVID-19 on the labour market, meeting our carbon neutrality target and the challenges posed by digitisation.  Apprenticeships and traineeships will be a crucial part of the response.

Ireland has faced challenges in meeting life long learning and skills targets, and although improvements have been made, the impact of the pandemic threatens to undo this progress.  A well-resourced, accessible and quality lifelong learning and skills framework is a must if we are to recover from the impacts of COVID-19 and meet the challenges of a digital and green transition.

The gender employment gap is the difference in rates of employment for men and women.  New figures from Eurostat shows that education has a key role to play in closing this gap. For those with low educational attainment, the gap is wider than it was a decade ago.