Many readers are probably aware of the ‘Save Our Small Schools‘ campaign, currently raging across popular social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. If not, here’s the story so far.
Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn, has decided to force many rural and small schools in Ireland to close by means of unfairly increasing the teacher to pupil ratio in their classrooms. Despite angry (and growing) opposition from the teachers and parents, and the questionable savings he claims will be achieved; Mr. Quinn is determined to proceed in order to get collect more money for non-secured, unnamed bondholders in Europe, somewhere…
You may recall an announcement in recent months that Ruairi Quinn supports a proposal to abolish and radically change the secondary school Junior Certificate. In particular he backed the the introduction of “greater creativity and innovation” and “being creative”. (GENEVIEVE CARBERY, Irish Times, Nov 2011, click this link)
Now Mr. Quinn is hell-bent on closing as many rural and small schools as possible, with the displaced children being shipped to larger schools that are already struggling with their numbers. The obvious consequence of such a short-sighted move (besides the absolute destruction of rural communities) is there will be less time in schools for creative subjects such as arts/crafts, music, dance, and learning through play. Mathematics, languages and commerce will undoubtedly take an even greater lions share of lesson time.
Less After-School Activities
After-school activities in the areas where rural schools are to be forced into closing will also be denied to local children, because the majority of these activities are held within the schools. There will be more pressure on the activities being offered in larger schools, and many children are going to miss out. That means even less time for organised creative activities.
‘Third Grade Slump’
Will it surprise Mr. Quinn when these same children begin their secondary school education, studying the proposed new Junior Certificate curriculum, that they will find it difficult to adjust to left-hemisphere/right-hemisphere thinking? Perhaps Mr. Quinn is not aware of what our American friends have identified and labelled the ‘third grade slump’. That is, by the time children reach the third grade, their ability to be creative has been all but stomped out of them by a logical number crunching left-brain driven educational system, that rewards the technical at the expense of the creative. (read ‘A Whole New Mind’, Pink)
The Future ‘Smart Economy’ Of Ireland
As for this ‘Smart Economy’ we keep hearing about, perhaps Ruairi Quinn needs to be updated on what is going on in the business world. Every child in the street knows manufacturing has left the western world, outsourced to Asia. I wonder if our minister is aware too, that computer programming, once the core of ‘Smart Economies’ is also going to Asia? American companies have being quick to take advantage of low-cost, well educated work forces in countries like India where a highly qualified programmer will work for $1000 per month, as opposed to her counterpart in the States who on average earns around $16000 per month for the same work (with health plan thrown in).
What does this mean for Ireland, a small, expensive country with a small population? It means we need to know how to do more than just programme; we also need to know how to build and maintain relationships, how to think outside the box, and in particular, how to find creative solutions to business problems. We need emotionally intelligent people, who can speak the language of their industry, to provide creative, aesthetic solutions to fulfil market demands. In short we need to nurture both hemispheres of our children’s brains EQUALLY in order to prepare them for their future. Crushing their creativity in primary school, in the belief that you can easily switch that part of their brain on when they hit secondary school is a ridiculous notion.
Finding A Solution And Saving Our Small Schools
Minister For Education; teachers, parents and our children need YOU to think creatively right now? Can you find a solution that guarantees the quality of our children’s education, and the culture and identity of rural Ireland? Teachers and parents will be happy to help you find workable solutions, but you must remove the threat to our children and communities before we can do so.
www.SONS.ie – Petitions
www.RuralScoilNet.WordPress.com – Press information