Monday, June 30, 2008

Schools Not Out

The Irish Times carries a report today on research by the Irish Primary Principals’ Network on what parents want from their schools. How nice of them to ask us. Their timing is interesting: they chose the last day of school to tell us what parents want. I guess if you beg to differ with the findings then you'll have to wait until September to tell them so.

And I do beg to differ: for it is the questions not asked that are more pertinent than the ones the IPPN did ask. Much is made of the findings that 70% of parents would prefer to see schools run by the State with equal status and opportunity for all religions. We are told that in excess of half of all adults would like to see some of the time now given to religion reallocated to other activities, principally physical education. Indeed, a lot of the reportage is about how parents would like to see their children's time at school used differently in relation to the teaching of religion.

Fair enough: the results are interesting though not especially enlightening. But here are the questions I would have liked a poll of parents of children in primary schools to have asked:

Q. how much extra tax would you be prepared to pay for all primary education to be provided by the state?

Q. do you consider the length of the school day to be adequate for the purpose of educating your child(ren), and if not - how much longer should the average school day be?

Q. do you consider the number of days holiday your child(ren) has/have because schools are closed to be about right, too few or too many? If too many, how many more days of schooling would you like your child(ren) to have?

Q. do you think it appropriate that your child's/children's schools are shut completely for two months over the summer and unavailable to those willing to organise events etc for children?

Q. how do you rate the quality of your child's/children's teachers? If a teacher's quality is too low do you think the school should have the right to send them on a remedial teacher training course and/or make them redundant?

Q. would you like your child's/children's school to be able to pay extra to attract teachers qualified to teach science and/or maths?

Q. would you like your child/children to spend less time learning Irish and more time learning another language such as French or Spanish? Or learning science and computing skills instead?

And the big one:

Q. do you think that the way we organise the education of our children is the very best way to prepare them for life as citizens of the 21st century - or would you rather see the death of education and the dawn of learning?

Somehow I suspect I'll be waiting a lot longer than the length of a school summer holiday before the IPPN ask these kind of questions. If you are a parent of children in primary school you might even have a few questions of your own you would like them to ask next time.

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