HEAVENS above, we really are obsessed with education! The news, this week, that underperforming or otherwise recalcitrant teachers are to face disciplinary procedures, has brought as much joy to the nation as the revolution once brought to the Paris mobs.
Off with their heads, we say.
Move aside Finland with your high performing education system that is currently the envy of Europe. We’re going to top the learning league before the year is out.
Unfortunately, it’s probably too late for young Saoirse, who would almost certainly have got the points for medicine last year if she hadn’t had such inept teachers in Leaving Cert, but at least we won’t have to spend a fortune on grinds for Johnny, now that every teacher will have to come up to scratch or face the guillotine.
Look, education is not a life or death situation like the work of doctors and nurses. I’m all for strict disciplinary procedures for medics because of the fear that otherwise they might amputate the wrong limb or leave a scissors inside me after an operation, but I’m at a bit of a loss as to how a teacher’s performance is to be measured or how complaints are to be assessed. All I do know is that many teachers are stressed enough already with unfair and unreasonable expectations, without having to cope with the threat of a Teaching Council investigation based on spurious, malicious or even genuine complaints from an education-obsessed race which wouldn’t recognise scholarship anymore if it came up and kicked them in the eye.
The Teaching Council, which, by the way, has accepted more teachers onto its rolls than the number of available teaching jobs in the country and which still allows teachers to teach subjects they’re not fully qualified in, reckons that at least 30 teachers a year are likely to face public disciplinary hearings for the first time in Ireland. Some of them could be struck off.
Others will be admonished – in public presumably – and the rest could be sent back to school. It sounds as if it could be balm to the soul of those of us who were educated under the old system of severe corporal punishment for failing to appreciate the ends and outs of the Modh Coinniallach. It’s pay-back time.
But doctors and nurses have disciplinary procedures, you may argue. But like I said, they deal with life and death situations. Anyway, when did you last hear of 30 doctors or 30 nurses a year facing public disciplinary hearings?
I’m disappointed in Minister Bruton. He’s only three months in the job, but he ought to know by now that there are hundreds of disgruntled, stressed and de-motivated teachers around the country faced daily with new initiatives for which they are poorly prepared and even more poorly remunerated. Many of them, forced to work on 11 hour contracts for miserly payment, have to concentrate all their efforts on day to day survival without having to muster, on starvation rations, the stamina required now to withstand the assault of the public disciplinary squads.
Others are working in classrooms doing the same job as their older colleagues for less pay and being fed the trite old cliché that it’s not about money because ‘teaching is a vocation’. Tell that to the disciplinary panel when their remuneration is being calculated.
Surely if it’s “excellence in education” that the Minister is pursuing, he’d level the playing field for all teachers first, pay them what an excellent education system is worth and restore the conditions and status they once enjoyed, before imposing what sound like draconian disciplinary measures to impress an education mad public. Teachers need to be motivated too, Minister!
I’m disappointed also in the teaching unions who, fully aware of the plight of their members, particularly younger teachers, seem to have accepted this high and mighty disciplinary measure without demanding fair play and justice for all their members first.
At the same time, the Department of Education is too busy chasing every new classroom development devised across the water in Britain to come up with anything even remotely resembling excellence in education. Rote learning, for instance went out the window several years ago in Britain and, naturally, we followed suit some time later. Now the treacherous Brits are after doubling back on us and they’re learning their multiplication tables off by heart again in British classrooms. Mark my words, it’s only a matter of time before you’ll be buying table books for your offspring again.
Don’t worry, teachers won’t have to be re-trained. They never really lost touch with rote learning, despite the Department’s high falutin’ decrees. As far as I can see the only way to get 600 points in the Leaving is to be motivated enough to want to get a good job. The best way to do that, I’m told, is to learn the notes off by heart. Genius, or good teaching, notwithstanding!
Even as I write, I learn that local councillors are to get a pay rise of around £4,000 a year, which incidentally, is nearly as much as some teachers can hope to earn in a year on short hour, part time, insecure contracts. But is there any talk about introducing disciplinary procedures to bring politicians up to scratch? Of course not!
We may be madly interested in politics, but, as I said, we’re absolutely obsessed about education, or more accurately, about its potential to ensure a secure and wealthy future for our children.
Just tell them, instead, to avoid the teaching profession, or they’ll never be rich, and sure as Hell they’ll end up on the guillotine.