Sometimes you don’t have to go far to discover a whole new world. I was recently walking through the Johnstown Estate, the beautiful hotel up the road from us in Enfield, when I bumped into Catherine Fox.
met Catherine while working in communications for Combilift, the forklift manufacturer in Monaghan. She is now Deputy Headmistress at Dunboyne College and was at a graduation ceremony at Johnstown Estate.
“End with what?” I asked.
It was at this point that I started my postgraduate education and realized the size of the resources the government is investing in education and training outside of the traditional university system.
It doesn’t matter what stage of life you are in; whether you want to start, quit, hate your job and want to quit, love your job and want to get ahead, don’t have a job and would like to have one, or are not interested in a job but would like to learn something new. There is a course, possibly free, for you.
Go to fetchcourses.ie and find something near you. I told a friend about it who always stayed at home to take care of her children. Now that they are adults, she was dying to learn new skills but had no idea where to start. Within two weeks, she was taking a free evening class to learn computer skills. it’s brilliant
Minister of State for Business and Employment, Damien English, presided over this special graduation as it was in the Skills to Advance training stream. It is aimed at employees and employers in small and medium-sized companies. The employees who received the awards were from companies across Meath who had studied everything from IT to delivering training. Small businesses that may have flinched at paying for employee training can now get it for free or at a very low cost.
Impressed, I brought home a brochure from Dunboyne College. My son picked it up by accident and was amazed when he discovered what further education could mean for him. He’s doing the Leaving Cert this year and of course it’s all very stressful.
I’ve officially stated that we won’t panic about the points. But despite my great words, it’s still hard to ignore the pressure.
Stress levels aren’t helped by well-meaning requests from friends and family, the seasonal media hype surrounding high achievers, and ironically, many articles about the stress of leaving the Cert.
In fact, Andrea Feeney, executive director of the state examination board, told the Oireachtas Committee on Education this week that she wants a press moratorium on Leaving Cert coverage.
My son had found what used to be called PLCs, or Post-Leaving Cert courses. They are now called PUCs or pre-university courses.
If you achieve a certain number of awards in a one-year course, you can be admitted to study at the universities.
My son discovered one that would get him into the degree he wants to do. So if it doesn’t work with the Leaving Cert, there is an alternative way. It seemed too good to be true.
His fifth and sixth years at school have been severely disrupted by Covid, either through lockdowns or mass teacher absences. In fairness, the Department of Education has responded by expanding the options in the exam papers, but it’s been a tough few years.
So I got back to talking to Catherine and Shane Woods, Lecturer at Dunboyne College. They say the courses are so well structured that they recommend that even if you get the credit for your preferred degree, you should still do a PUC. Students are well prepared in the PUC and their subsequent dropout rates are lower than the norm.
In 2020, more than 2,800 first-year students took up undergraduate studies on the basis of such further education degrees. 86 percent of the courses offered by publicly funded institutions via the CAO have an access route for students with further education qualifications.
In addition, there is a significant expansion of the training and trainee programs beyond the classic manual training.
A total of 1 billion euros in current expenses are invested in further education. Simon Harris banged this drum consistently and sincerely.
However, many parents, myself included, are still fixated on the traditional point system.
I never thought of a PUC until I met Catherine. Perhaps this renaming from post-leaving cert to pre-university tells a story.
There is a lot of pedagogical snobbery and PLCs have sometimes been seen as a last resort for people who had no other choice.
Continuing education also suffered from being tied to the social system. “Back to Education” courses were sometimes forced on the long-term unemployed as a condition of receiving unemployment benefits. Oddly enough, that actually backfired.
A fascinating study by ESRI’s Elish Kelly has shown that long-term unemployed people are less likely to get a job after completing an education re-entry course than those who have not. Courses were fine, but the selected cohort faced greater barriers to employability than education.
But this coercion and the connection to welfare meant that what we might call “adult education” carried a stigma. It is now a much more positive environment for a career change, lifelong learning and a fresh start. I’ve always defended the point system as a ruthlessly objective method of college entry that’s impervious to favoritism. But it has garbled the second level education.
Creating this alternative path through education is a fantastic breakthrough. So if you know a Leaving Cert student who’s feeling overwhelmed by stress, let them know there’s another way.
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/college-entry-doesnt-begin-and-end-with-dreaded-points-race-there-are-other-routes-41601886.html Getting into college doesn’t begin and end with the dreaded points race—there are other ways