Sinn Féin - On Your Side

Radical rethink needed in relation to education

6 April, 2004

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Education Seán Crowe has reacted to Minister Noel Dempsey's suggestion for a lottery system for students to gain entry into University by saying that "the real issues are being overlooked".

Deputy Crowe said:

"While I welcome Mr Dempsey's talk of a review of the points system employed to determine what students will make it to third level, many of the real issues are being overlooked.

The Minister has accepted that there are disadvantaged students who cannot afford to pay for tuition and fees but what has he done about it? The college registration fee has also increased by over 30% since it was introduced in 1996 and this is yet another mountain to climb for students who want to continue on to third-level education. Of the students who do make it to third-level, 58% have to work part-time, many up to 20 hours a week, to supplement the grossly inadequate grants that they are given to live on. This is one of the main hurdles faced by students already in a new and pressurised environment.

"There has been a culture of acceptance for far too long that second-level, as well as third-level education, will not be reached by those from the lower socio-economic classes and it is this official complacency which must be seriously addressed, so that not only will the children of the more privileged well-off classes continue to enjoy educational advantage in the future. Sinn Féin believe that equality of opportunity, access and provision is a basic entitlement. Such provision calls for adequate and sustained investment in our richest resource - our young people. For this reason, we need to look at the early experiences of children in the Irish education system, why many young people do not even finish second-level education, let alone go on to third level. The root causes must be looked at, attitudes need to change and more must be done to facilitate children's educational advancement from their first day, and onwards.

"I welcome Minister Dempsey's idea to reform the current points system but I would urge him to go further in restructuring ? to start a radical rethink of

the way education for all is approached." ENDS

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