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Social Justice report findings rejected by department – Unpublished letter to the Irish Times

20th November 2017 | General Secretary's Blog

Dear Sir,

The Department of Education is quite correct to reject the findings of the recent Bertelsmann Stiftung report which rank Ireland’s education system at 21st of 28 countries. The use in the report of the percentage of GDP spend as a comparator does not give an accurate comparison with other European countries, as the huge impact of the multinationals in Ireland skews our GDP to an extraordinary degree.

However, the Departments own comparator, the percentage of total public spend on education in Ireland at 12.9 per cent – higher than the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development average, while more accurate does not tell the entire story either. The fact is that Ireland has one of the youngest populations in Europe, 40% of our population is under the age of 30, and Children accounted for more than one in five (22.0%) of the Irish population Children form 13.1% of the German population, 13.7% of the Bulgarian and 13.9% of Italy’s population. This means we should be spending a great more on Education than just the OECD average.

The Irish Education system, and particularly the Primary School System is underfunded. A few months ago, “think tank” the Nevin Institute compared Irish Education spending with that in the ten leading European countries. The Institute found that Ireland spends in the region of 80% to 82% of the average on primary and lower secondary education. Well below our peers. Ireland spends €7,220.70 per primary pupil per year, Finland spends €9,266.80, Sweden €10,938.80 and Switzerland spends a whopping €18,566.10. Voluntary contributions are not a major issue in Switzerland.

What the Bertelsmann report does show is the Ireland’s Education system is delivering a great return on investment, with a little bit more it could deliver an even better return. It’s time for a strategic investment plan for Primary Education to realise the Goals in the Action Plan for Education and a good place to start would be an increase in the capitation grant.

Yours Sincerely

Seamus Mulconry

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