Our arrival as COSN delegates here in Dublin came just days after the publication of the Action Plan for Education 2016-2019, an initiative of Minister of Education and Skills Richard Bruton, establishing the ambitious goal of making Ireland’s education and training services the best in Europe by 2026. We were fortunate to learn many of the details of this Action Plan earlier today and honored to be able to engage in a robust dialogue with Minister Bruton and a number of other national education leaders. Minister Bruton, as quoted on the release of the plan, said: “Excellent and innovative education and training are the pivot around which personal fulfillment, a fair society and a successful nation should revolve. It is central to sustaining economic success and in converting economic success into building a strong community.”
The Action Plan details five specific goals to be achieved through 139 actions and hundreds of additional sub actions. The first goal – improve the learning experience and the success of learners – is just one of at least a dozen areas in which the education reform efforts underway here in Ireland bear striking similarity to reforms being implemented in states and communities back on our side of the Atlantic. However, the Department’s plan is not short on strategies and examples of success that seem fresh, bold, and worthy of close observation in the months and years to come. There is a significant focus on increasing the use of ICT in teaching, learning, and assessment. One objective calls for a heightened focus on entrepreneurship, creativity, and innovation, including benchmarking entrepreneurial activity in higher education and work with the higher education authority to ensure an “ambitious and implementable plan to identify and address skills gaps, ICT, and STEM needs.”
The plan also feels appropriately weighty with strategies for supporting the educator workforce through Continuous Professional Development (CPD), reforms of initial teacher education (ITE) and teacher induction, and a revision of entry criteria for ITE programs.
At the close of this day filled with idea sharing, I’m struck by the notion that there is much more to be learned from our gracious hosts than our short stay here will allow.