Teacher college mergers aim to maintain standard
on 06/09/2012 00:00:00
The review commissioned for him by the Higher Education Authority (HEA) was focused on improving pre-service training for primary and second-level teachers rather than cutting costs.
The recommendations include moves to have students of some smaller colleges take lectures in nearby larger colleges, while changes to overall governance might also occur.
The group said the standard of applicants for teacher training courses was among the highest in the world, but a lack of jobs may deter top people applying in future.
"Where there is an oversupply of teachers, with the consequent reduction in opportunities for employment, it may not be possible to continue to attract high calibre entrants into teaching," the review panel wrote.
Despite a slight drop in the numbers graduating last year, the 3,463 who qualified as teachers was almost 600 more than in 2007. They have problems finding work as a result of cuts in schools, although rising pupil numbers and retirements may make more jobs available in coming years.
However, as well as over the numbers, concern was expressed - particularly in relation to second level - about the emergence of qualified teachers of subjects not needed by schools while there are shortages of teachers fully qualified to take maths or other subjects.
Instead, the group said, wider discussions should be required before colleges develop new teacher training courses.
"It is a waste of precious staff time and effort to develop programmes for which there is no national need," the experts said.
The report of the review group, chaired by Pasi Sahlberg from Finland, also recommends use of more full-time research-focused lecturers over experienced teachers hired as part-time lecturers.
Mr Quinn has previously said it was wasteful to have 22 colleges, including 19 funded by the State, offering teacher training in a country of this size. Publishing the Sahlberg report, he said the collaborations would mean a smaller number of teacher training colleges would each offer early childhood, primary, post-primary, and adult education.
"We know from research that the quality of our education system can not exceed the quality of our teachers. This is why I am driving changes at both a structural and content level in teacher education."
He has already sanctioned the extension of degrees for primary teaching from three to four-years and the postgraduate course for second-level teaching from a year to two.
Unions representing academic staff at the colleges called for detailed discussions on the changes before implementation. The Teachers' Union of Ireland said the transfer of facilities would have significant cost implications.
Many of the proposed groupings are already in talks about mergers and some within the six recommended partnerships have strong existing ties.
* Dublin City University, St Patrick's College Dublin, and Mater Dei Institute of Education (in talks with Church of Ireland College of Education).
* Trinity College, Marino Institute of Education, University College Dublin, National College of Art and Design.
* NUI Maynooth and Froebel College, Dublin.
* University of Limerick, Mary Immaculate College, and Limerick Institute of Technology.
* University College Cork and Cork Institute of Technology.
* NUI Galway and St Angela's College Sligo.