Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Tuesday, 2 November 2021

Joint Oireachtas Committee on Education and Skills

Leaving Certificate Reform: Discussion (Resumed)

Photo of Malcolm ByrneMalcolm Byrne (Fianna Fail) | Oireachtas source

I thank the Minister and the other witnesses for their comprehensive presentations. I thank all of the organisations represented here in terms of the great work that is being done in a very transformational way. I would like to put a number of direct questions.

On the FET strategy, the retrofitting skills programme started with Waterford and Wexford Education and Training Board. I welcome that it continues to be rolled out. Is Mr. Brownlee confident, in terms of the construction apprenticeship needs we have as a country, that we will be able to meet them? The Minister mentioned a figure of 27,500. Is Mr. Brownlee confident we can do that? One of the problems historically has been barriers of transition between FET and higher education. Are there existing barriers about which Mr. Brownlee continues to have concerns with regard to those who wish to transition between further and higher education and vice versa?

My next question is for Mr. Conlon. He will be aware of the work done by the Commission on the Points System, the HEA and the NCCA on the transitions issue. One of the big concerns was around the increasing specialisation of higher education courses, that these were multiplying and we were getting programmes such as engineering with French and computing. One of the recommendations was that higher education institutions would reduce that diversification. That has not happened to the extent that we would like to see it happen. It is welcome that under the CAO, students will get a whole range of options in terms of apprenticeships. What moves are being made in terms of reducing those overall numbers because it is the backwash from third level that is impacting on the CAO programme, particularly in the area of the high points courses?

We will be constantly building skills over the next period. Dr. O'Connor might comment on the work QQI is doing in the area of micro-credentials. That is important.

My final question is for the Minister. Access is improving enormously but for high points courses, the socioeconomic profile, particularly those in medicine and law, is not improving. There is evidence it is disimproving. What can be done in that area? Students who are doing their leaving certificate now will be retiring in the 2070s. What skills will we need out to that period? Like others, I have spoken to students about what they would like to hear and see. They have talked about tax, philosophy, greater knowledge of technology, design, and public speaking. In my own case, I would have liked a greater knowledge of home economics. Anybody who has experienced my cooking would probably agree. In terms of his own experience in life, what skills would the Minister have liked to have undertaken at second level that he believes would stand to him now?


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