Education is the key to moving our society forward, says Tony Gallagher in the latest Forward Together podcast interview. But that has to mean much more than encouraging as many students as possible to go to university and obtain a degree. Our society has become fixated with university education, at the expense of school pupils who do not aspire to higher education.
More has to be done to support children from deprived families, to encourage them through careers guidance and to promote aspiration. Support has to begin in children’s early years, before they start attending school.
In order to provide a more inclusive education system, it is necessary that there is a better understanding of the experience of school pupils who do not go on to university, says Tony. He is frustrated at the lack of data collected on school leavers who do not choose an academic route – many of whom become alienated from the labour market. We know little about their progress through life, making it difficult to take the action necessary to assist them, or improve post-primary education for those who leave school without good qualifications or skills.
We need to reflect on the education system we have in Northern Ireland, including the extent to which schools co-operate with each other. It is essential that the learning communities that provide a wider subject choice at sixth form level work effectively.
Tony is professor of education at Queen’s University. The interview can be heard here.
The Holywell Trust Forward Together podcasts are funded by the Community Relations Council’s Media Grant Scheme.
Disclaimer: This project has received support from the Northern Ireland Community Relations Council which aims to promote a pluralist society characterised by equity, respect for diversity, and recognition of interdependence. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the Community Relations Council.
Paul Gosling is editor of ‘Lessons from the Troubles and an Unsettled Peace’, author of ‘A New Ireland’ and ‘The Fall of the Ethical Bank’ and co-author of ‘Abuse of Trust’, the story of a child abuse scandal in Leicestershire. He is engaged by the Holywell Trust charity on peace and reconciliation projects and is Parliamentary Assistant to Sinead McLaughlin MLA, the SDLP’s economy spokesperson.