Report shows schools performing well, but lacking investment

Tuesday 12 September 2017

The OECD report Education at a Glance 2017, published today, shows that Ireland’s second-level education service is performing well, despite the fact that investment in education is below the OECD average.

Ireland’s school completion rate is the third highest out of countries surveyed. In Ireland 91 per cent of students complete second-level education, compared to the OECD average of 68 per cent. Ireland also has a higher rate of transfer of students from second to tertiary level.

“This is a fine testament to a system that is working hard and achieving successful outcomes for Ireland’s young people, despite continuing under-investment,” said Kieran Christie, ASTI General Secretary.

Ireland invests a lower percentage of GDP in second-level education than its international counterparts; the report ranks Ireland 32nd out of 34 countries. In 2014 expenditure on education as a percentage of GDP was 1.6 in Ireland, compared to the OECD average of 2.1. Across all education levels, the average OECD expenditure as a percentage of GDP was 5.2 per cent compared to 4.8 per cent in Ireland.

The report stresses the benefits of investment in education for individuals and countries. Adults who have completed second-level education are more likely to be in employment, achieve better pay, and are at a lower risk for depression than those with less education. However, the ASTI notes that the percentage of young people in Ireland who are NEETs (not in education, employment or training) is higher than the OECD average; 18.2 per cent compared to the OECD average of 15.3 per cent. “The Government must ensure the full implementation of its new DEIS* action plan, and build upon this plan, so that all young people have equal opportunities to progress to tertiary education,” said Mr Christie.

Good news for science

More students in Ireland are choosing to study science, maths, and information and communications technologies at tertiary level than other countries. “This is good news. However, the momentum must be maintained by increased investment in science at second-level. In a 2015 survey commissioned by the ASTI, sixty-one per cent of science teachers stated that their lab facilities were inadequate,” said Kieran Christie.

Teachers’ working hours

Once again, the Education at a Glance report provides the evidence that Irish teachers spend more time teaching than their OECD counterparts. “Irish second-level  teachers spend 735 hours teaching their students compared with the OECD average of 662 hours and the EU average of 641 hours,” said Kieran Christie. “In addition to this Irish teachers are required to carry out a wide range of non-classroom duties including class preparation, attending subject and planning meetings, attending parent-teacher and staff meetings, and fulfilling a wide range of administrative and legal duties. Irish teaches are also internationally renowned for their commitment to extra-curricular activities outside of the school day.”