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Ireland. VET in Europe – Country Report 2011 - Europa

Ireland. VET in Europe – Country Report 2011 - Europa

• addressing skill needs and widening access to lifelong learning in the context of anintegrated approach to education and training;• tackling disadvantage in terms of literacy and numeracy, early school leaving and providingsecond chance education and training for those with low skills;• addressing access barriers through the strengthening of financial supports, guidance,counselling and childcare services and increased flexibility of provision.The National Skills Strategy seeks to achieve a significantly improved educational profile for thelabour force through setting out the following targets:• The setting of a long-term target for 500,000 adults to increase their levels of educationattainment by at least one level on the National Framework of Qualifications. The aim is toup-skill 250,000 people from NFQ level 3 to level 5; 140,000 from level 5 to level 6/7(advanced certificate/ordinary degree); 70,000 from level 1 or 2 (school dropout) to level 3and 30,000 from level 4/5 to level 8 (honours degree or above) 10 .• Ensure that the output from the education system reaches its potential, through improvingparticipation rates in upper secondary level to 90% and ensuring the progression rate to thirdlevel increases to 70%.Current DebatesAs noted above, the Government has introduced numerous VET lifelong learning related initiativesand the focus now lies on the implementation and follow up of these initiatives. However, there arecurrently two issues of immediate concern regarding VET - improving overall literacy andnumeracy levels; and preparing people for work in new sectors and providing them with specificskills which match identified labour market needs.The OECD PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) study 2009 found that theperformance of Irish 15 year olds in mathematics and reading had deteriorated markedly since theprevious survey in 2006. Irish scores now stand at average OECD levels (reading) or below(maths). As a result, Government are currently directing education and training resources towardsremedying this situation. The national strategy, Literacy and Numeracy for Learning and Life,2011-2020 11 , was launched in July 2011. The Strategy aims to ensure that teachers and schoolsmaintain a strong focus on literacy and numeracy skills, within a broad and balanced curriculum.The strategy sets out a wide-ranging programme of reforms in initial teacher education courses, inprofessional development for teachers and school principals, and in the content of the curriculum atprimary and post-primary levels in order to achieve these vital skills. Every school is required tohave a literacy action plan, with demonstrable outcomes. Responsibility for achieving theseoutcomes is vested in the school principals, who will also receive continuous professionaldevelopment to support the implementation of the strategy. Pre-service and in-service training inteaching of literacy for all primary and secondary school teachers will be improved, with dedicatedliteracy mentors to work intensively with teachers in most disadvantaged primary schools.As part of its labour market policy, the Government has made literacy and basic workplace skills anational priority, with literacy training incorporated into a wide variety of further education and10 An implementation statement for the Skills Strategy circulated by DES in 2010 found that while good progress hadbeen made, more needed to be done particularly in regard to upskilling those at levels 1-3 to Levels 4 and 5 on the NFQ(EQF levels 3 and 4).11 Literacy and Numeracy for Learning and Life, The National Strategy to improving literacy and numeracy amongchildren and young people, 2011-2020 DES 2011.20

training programmes. The literacy problem is being addressed through the integration of literacy invocational training and through community education.A much greater focus of attention is now being placed on matching VET provision with theidentified skill needs of the labour market at both initial and continuing levels of vocationaleducation and training. In the secondary school sector, maths and science teaching is beingreformed, including making science a compulsory Junior Cert subject by 2014. A bonus pointssystem for maths, which is linked to specific maths or science courses, will be introduced toencourage greater participation in courses where skills shortages currently exist. (See 8.2).‘Springboard’ was launched in May 2011 as part of the Government’s Job Initiative. It offerednearly 6,000 free, part-time places in higher education leading to awards in the national frameworkof qualifications, in identified skills areas where there are known to be employment opportunities.These areas include information and communications technology (ICT); the green economy;biopharma-pharmachem; the food and beverage sector, international financial services, the medicaldevices sector and entrepreneurship. These places are aimed at unemployed people with a leavingCertificate, PLC or equivalent (NFQ levels5/6) and a previous history of employment in sectorsunlikely to recover to pre-recession levels and unemployed people with a degree and who mayrequire additional up-skilling or re-skilling to re-enter employment.2.2 Implementation of European tools and principles 12In 2001 the Government set up the National Qualifications Authority of Ireland (NQAI). The NQAIcovers all awards in the State from initial schooling to further education and training includinghigher doctorate level and promotes access, transfer and progression within the education andtraining system for all learners including those who have special needs. It also promotes themaintenance of the standards of awards in the further and higher education and training sectors, andliaises with bodies outside the State for the mutual recognition of awards. The NQAI has policiesand procedures under four themes, through which it meets its objectives. These are:• Credit systems i.e. credit accumulation, transfer and processes for the recognition ofprior learning, and accord with developments in Europe.• Transfer and progression routes for learners on achieving awards.• Entry arrangements. This requires procedures for providers to be fair, with consistentarrangements for entry and appeals processes.• Information provision such as statements of the knowledge, skill and the competencesrequired.Following the establishment of the NQAI, the Further Education and Training Awards Council(FETAC) and the Higher Education and Training Awards Council (HETAC) were set up in 2001.The awarding Councils are responsible for the certification of all education and training in the State,other than awards made in respect of primary and secondary-level education, the Dublin Institute ofTechnology and the Universities. The Councils have separate but inter-dependent roles and threeprincipal functions.• The establishment of policies and criteria for the making of awards, the validation ofprogrammes and the setting and monitoring of standards.• The determination of standards of knowledge, skill or competence to be acquired by12Part of this section is derived from the ‘Preparation of the 2010 Joint Report on the implementation of the Educationand Training 2010 work programme; 2009 national reports: Ireland.21

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