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Policy issues concerning Education

We are well aware of the short-term health, social and economic impacts of Covid-19.  But what about the long-term impacts that the pandemic has caused, partciularly the disruption to education and learning.  The latest research indicates that students impacted are facing at least a 3 per cent loss of income compared to peers in previous years throughout their lifetimes, with disadvantaged students being worst affected.  

The National Economic Plan - to be published on Budget day - must give equal weight to environmental, social and economic considerations. Otherwise, this Government will simply repeat the mistakes of the past and many will be left behind.  The National Economic Plan must be underpinned by a new social contract that treats our environment, society and economy equally

As children all over the country returned to school, the findings of the latest Survey from the Central Statistics Office - Social Impact of COVID-19 Survey August 2020: The Reopening of Schools – provides insights into the impact of #StayHomeStaySafe on children’s education.


The CSO has just published ‘Ireland's UN SDGs 2019 - Report on Indicators for Goal 4 Quality Education’.  The CSO report monitors how Ireland is progressing towards meeting its targets under the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  It examines three key areas, Childhood Education, Adult Education and Education Infrastructure.


Education is widely recognised as crucial to the achievement of our national objectives of economic competitiveness, social inclusion, and active citizenship.  However, the levels of public funding for education in Ireland are out of step with these aspirations. Here we outline priority areas for investment in education in Budget 2021.  

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.

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