The more time I spend with certain entrepreneurs and business people the more complaints and criticisms I hear about the Irish Education System and how it is failing the youth of Ireland at the moment. I decided to share my own views on the system in the areas of tech and entrepreneurism.
Education + Tech
It is true that in the area of computing and computer science related subjects the system is very weak. All the computing modules in computer class that were available in my previous secondary school Presentation Brothers College, Cork were simple ECDL like modules such as using Word and Excel nothing resembling coding or even simple web-design skills.
It was the lack of this kind of education, which spurred James Whelton (of CoderDojo fame) to start the first computer club in our school available for 6th years where we did a little HTML and CSS. These classes from the beginning were full and this was what James says spurred his interest in starting CoderDojo.
I believe that these classes should be taught as they could provide students with an understanding of the subject and the basic skills, which they could then further, develop in college or in the workplace.
There are a few reasons why I think that coding and computer classes haven’t become mainstream or a significant part of the Irish Education System:
1) Equipment Cost The cost of equipping every country in the school with computers and adequate software is eno
rmous. I appreciate that many schools have computing equipment already but if computing were to become part of a syllabus there would need to be nationwide investment, which would incur a huge capital expense.
2) Staff Cost Most teachers simply do not know how to code. They were never taught how to code and it is not part of the syllabus they teach. There would be a large capital cost in recruiting and training computer science teachers.
3) Participation Levels Although coding and computers are becoming more popular year on year it is still a minority of students who would opt for this course in my opinion. Coding can be seen as quite difficult and I personally (in the hunt for Leaving Cert points) would have opted for a nice Geography question rather than a Java problem.
Until these problems are sorted I do not see technology forming any major part of the curriculum any time soon. For now students will have to make use of services like CoderDojo or simply teach themselves to code using YouTube videos or the huge amount of free resources available at home.
Education + Entrepreneurship
It has often been said that the Education System does not do enough to promote entrepreneurism and business at both the second and third level.
I often wonder what is meant by this statement as when I question it some people says they haven’t been told much about it and some people say that when they went looking for advice in school it wasn’t readily available from the teachers.
As for hearing about entrepreneurism I really feel that this one is up to the individual students themselves. A small amount of investigation and study into the general business world will provide tones of information on entrepreneurism and what it is like to start your own business.
Schools themselves do their best to run mini-companies during transition year and while I accept that this does not always go well due to the lack of interest from some teachers who just see it as a pointless exercise I think that students who are interested can and will pick up the entrepreneurial “bug” from this endeavor.
As for students not being able to get advice on business in school I would be very slow to blame the teachers and the staff in the school for this one.
Usually it is the business studies teacher who gets quizzed with these questions and while I admit it would help if they had some general knowledge on the subject I would much rather that they know the business studies curriculum inside/out before concentrating on this.
Personally I used my business teacher’s knowledge of the course to aid my learning in business studies and when I began to get involved in business I sought out other experts in that field to ask for the advice that they were trained on.
Overall I don’t think my school did too badly in the field of entrepreneurism. In my year of 110-120ish students:
- One lad owns a successful indie game development company called Somnium Entertainment. http://www.somniumentertainment.net/
- One lad opened Cork’s first Burrito Bar ‘El Banditos’ on Washington Street last year.
- James founded CoderDojo along with his other projects.
- One guy branded and opened his own nightclub ‘BETA’ in the City Centre.
- I have my two businesses.
And Important to note: Tech and Entrepreneurism isnt the be all and end all. From my graduating class there will be very successful accountants, lawyers, doctors, pharmacists and sports-people who will make as much of an impact no doubt on Cork City as anybody.