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Policy issues concerning Education

Education systems across the world are being impacted by COVID-19. This disruption will impact the livelihoods of individuals, and the prospects of their communities.  As education systems move to online platforms in the short to medium term, it is vital that all steps are taken to avoid deepening educational and social inequality as a result. 

Ireland has the fourth lowest early school leaving rate in the European Union at five per cent and we are ranked second in the European Union for the percentage of people aged 20-24 with at least upper-second level education at 94 per cent.  This downward trend of early school leaving is a welcome development. Despite the progress made on early school leaving the poor labour market status of early school leavers points to the need for a continued focus on this cohort and on addressing educational disadvantage.  

Early childhood is the stage where education can most effectively influence the development of children and help reverse disadvantage. The most striking feature of investment in education in Ireland relative to other OECD countries is its under-investment in early childhood education.  High quality educational experiences in early childhood contribute significantly to life-long learning success.  This sector needs to be supported by Government, financially and through policy, to ensure that all children have equal access to this success and all of the benefits of quality education.

Digital technology can improve our lives but it also poses a major risk of widening social inequality particularly for people without the skills to navigate digital platforms.  As we move towards a future where digital transformation will disrupt the labour market, having the greatest impact on people with lower levels of education and skills, it is important that this cohort are not left behind.   

Family poverty remains one of the largest determinants of educational outcomes in Ireland.  The benefits of investing in education, to the individual, to the economy and to society, far outweigh any initial outlay of resources.  Read Social Justice Ireland's Election Briefing on Education for an outline of a number of key challenges and some policy proposals that should be in the next Programme for Government.

At our 32nd annual Social Policy Conference last month, Mick Clifford (Irish Examiner, Irish Journalist of the Year 2016) interviewed Roddy Doyle, Booker Prize Winner in 1993, and one of Ireland's greatest living authors.

Technological change is coming whether we like it or not.  The question is are we doing enough to prepare for it?  More specifically are we doing enough to support those workers who will be most impacted by the changes that are on the horizon?

International Literacy Day gives us the opportunity to remember the importance of literacy, to celebrate the progress we have made, and a chance to reinvigorate efforts to address the literacy challenges that we still face.

Ireland has signed up to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 and is committed to legally binding climate commitments in 2020 and 2030.  We have a national commitment to be carbon neutral by 2050 yet we spend up to €4 billion every year on potentially environmentally damaging subsidies.

Two studies published recently by the Central Statistics Office show that a greater percentage of graduates from Higher and Further education were in substantial employment one year after graduation than in 2010, and that the higher the educational attainment, the higher the income.  Education has the capacity to be transformative, particularly for those in lower socioeconomic groups.  Government must prioritise equality of both access and opportunity to education for all.

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