John O'Dowd - Education - Ard Fheis
For an education system to succeed a society must be successful, for a society to be successful then the education system must succeed.
One cannot be achieved without the other and one is not sustainable without the other.
Education should be first and foremost about the individual, education should give the individual the tools to value themselves which in turn means that individual will become a valuable member of society.
Citizens empowered through the gift of education will repay that gift time and time again to their families to their community and the economy. We must therefore continue to strive to instil the gift of education in all our young people regardless of colour, class or creed.
As the third Sinn Fein Education Minister in the North within a decade I believe that is the journey we are on.
We have challenged the status quo which would decide a child’s destiny at age eleven.
We have challenged elitism for the elite and instead promoted a culture of excellence for all.
We have redirected millions of pounds into areas of social deprivation.
We have supported the rights of children from deprived areas to early years education, when others claimed such positive discrimination was wrong and unjust.
We have secured an additional £160m to be spent in schools despite the cuts imposed on the Executive by the British Government.
We have defended Free School Meals despite the onslaught on Welfare.
We have challenged failure and championed success in and out of the classroom.
We are equipping our society with the gift of education not based on a citizen’s creed, class or colour but on the recognition that each citizen is valued and given the gift of education they can be a valuable member of a successful society.
We support investment for the disadvantaged to eradicate disadvantage through education.
This is what we mean when we say, educate to be free.