What follows is a piece on the education system written for the éirígí Tir Chonaill blog by Peter O'Donnell.
The Business of Education
Education in Ireland, North and South is a business. Like any good business, it has made strenuous moves over the years to safeguard itself and ensure its continuance for future owners. Cf. Ken Bloomfield and the 11+, Set up your own schools in England and the C.C.M.S.
In terms of buying shares in such an enterprise, it is a sure bet. The client base is ongoing, nearly from the cradle to the grave, or at least from Naionra to Post Grad. The product is well defined, excellently promoted and eagerly sought after. The resources are expensive and, like the Manchester United shirt upgraded nearly every year.
The Boards of Directors are up there with the Executive boards of multi-nationals. They are richly rewarded, powerful in terms of property assests, potent in distribution of jobs, secret in the continuance of its education philosophy and adverse to change. Pension plans are rewarding and employment is often guaranteed after retirement.
To continue the Premiership notation, it covers all divisions. Years ago, there was the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th Divisions. Now you have the Premiership, The Championship, designed no doubt to give some false semblance of equality. Grammar, Comprehensive, Private, Metropolitan Colleges all put themselves forward as equal limbs of the same tree.Unfortunately, if you look at the fruit from each of these branches, there is a great disparity in quality and achievement.
That is, if you buy into the system.
Like any self serving system eg. The Catholic Church, The British Monarchy, The American Establishment there is an in ordinate amount of time, energy and resources utilised to maintain the system. Years ago, this would have been the status quo, but as the denim clad singers head for the Christmas compilations, so trying to keep still is not now an option. The Monarchy forgot about repackaging Charles and Camilla, and concentrated on the normal princes as lads about town, fighting for their country in hot far off lands and building wells for African families.
The Catholic Church minimised abuse scandals and are using their influence (in education circles) to promote those who are not bad apples. Micky Hart, the Tyrone manager and other worthies, has contributed to a new CD, the 3 Amigos/Priests sing their way through the avenues and allyways and Benidict is visiting Britain. A Eucharistic Conference is mooted for the future.
For those in the education process in Ireland, change is not going to happen. The system is geared to a person who is compliant and ready. Parents chase schools, wealth dictates residential address and status; language, speech, writing, access push are linked to the chain of riches or poverty.
The boards of governors, in many instances the same people interchanged, reinvent the teaching cadre, promotion is linked to the local GAA club as is often admission to teacher training colleges. I often wondered why God gave vocations to family groups instead of sharing them out. Look at any death notices and amaze yourself at the workings of the Lord. A bishop, a parish priest, a nun, a few principles, a solicitor and a book maker all in the same family. If you are poor, you get to see his mother in Fatima, Lourdes or Knock.
My wish is that education splits from the education system.