I’m frustrated. I’m frustrated and by the look of things I’m not alone. Educational change, needed, necessary, purposeful educational change in Ireland is being rolled out in an inadequate and disingenuous way.
At this stage I think we can all agree that the Junior Cert needs reform, no-one is proposing for a minute that the system we have now is ideal. Replacing it is a reasonable thing to do after 25 years, and you’d think after that length of time a well thought out and positive reform would be forthcoming but here we are six months before a new English course is to be introduced and there’s no news on assessment, there’s one day of CPD in advance and the ‘toolkit’ for designing and producing the new content isn’t online.
I’m frustrated. Over the last few years I’ve attended ASTI meetings on Junior Cycle Reform, we even added an extra day to our Convention last Easter on the issue. I’ve attended NCCA meetings on course content, and even a grand day out in Dublin Castle. At all those meetings the issues have been discussed: consultation, assessment, resources and equality for students have all been discussed. There’s still no detail on how we will assess our students and it’s not coming until after we start teaching the new course. There are still no details on investment in schools, in CPD or in ICT.
It is not enough to outline an assessment model and tell those expected to introduce it that the fine detail will ironed out after they’ve started teaching the new syllabus (notwithstanding the huge concerns many have with the proposed model). Neither is it enough to tell parents, students and teachers that the moderation is fail safe when the intention is assess and moderate all subjects in-school once the standardised tests (don’t get me started) in English, Irish and Maths are ‘bedded in’.
The frustration comes too from the dismissal of teacher concerns about external pressures from management, parental involvement, the comparisons that can be made between schools that have come to plague teacher in the US and England with a blithe shrug of the Minister’s shoulders. All these pressures are possible under these proposals but impossible under present system.
And this week I attended my one and only day of CPD before the new dispensation begins. One day! I have no problem with the people delivering the CPD, we can only feel sympathy for them when they are asked to field so many legitimate questions about what we being expected to deliver without the answers at their disposal. There was no aggression, there was just incredulity and a refusal to descend into resignation when the fine detail can’t be shared.
Time is running out given reform begins next September.
There has been so little preparation or consultation that it is laughable.
The new English course is a big improvement, but I’m tired of being told that it’s reason for being is it replaces the rote learning I’m drilling into my students every day. That’s an insult to any English teacher who stands in front of students having a conversation with students every day: a conversation about poetry, prose or fiction, a conversation about what it means to be a good writer, or how do communicate with each other. Did I say I was mad as hell already?
It has regrettably come to the stage where only a deferral of the current timeframe to consult teachers in schools properly will do to make sure the necessary professional development is taking place, to outline the resources that are going to be put in place to implement the framework and to illuminate the fine detail.
It’s clear this reform doesn’t have the confidence of teachers even those of us with an appetite for the changes but still do not know what is required of them. We have to take whatever action is required to have these issues addressed. Both the ASTI and TUI will ballot members in the coming weeks on what they want to do about it.