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Dublin: 5 °C Saturday 19 April, 2014

Irish pupils taught over twice as much religion as OECD average

A major new survey of developed nations shows the average Irish 7-year-old spends 10 per cent of their school time on religion.

Jessica Boyle gets a little upset as she has to leave her mother on her first day at Gardiner Street school in Dublin 1 earlier this month.
Jessica Boyle gets a little upset as she has to leave her mother on her first day at Gardiner Street school in Dublin 1 earlier this month.
Image: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

THE AVERAGE IRISH primary school pupil spends a tenth of their time in religious tuition – over twice the average of other developed countries, a new worldwide study has claimed.

The OECD’s ‘Education at a Glance’ report says the average 7 or 8 year old in Ireland spends 10 per cent of their time in primary tuition being taught religion, while the average among the countries surveyed is 4 per cent, and the average among EU countries is 5 per cent.

The report says Irish pupils – assuming they are taught the correct number of hours demanded by the Irish primary curriculum – spend only 12 per cent of their time learning maths.

The average among developed countries is 18 per cent – with the difference in maths tuition accounted exactly for the amount of time spent on religion.

The major report, surveying conditions in 30 of the world’s developed countries, shows that Irish students also spend less time studying technology and practical subjects than their worldwide peers – and less than half of what the average student in another country might spend on Physical Education.

This is reflected in the extra time spent on ‘modern foreign languages’ – which in Ireland’s case includes the teaching of the Irish language.

Top college achievers

Elsewhere, the report shows Ireland has the fifth-highest rate of college education among those aged 25-34, while the numbers aged between 55 and 64 with third-level qualifications is about equal to the average among the G20 countries.

However, the gap of educational attainment between those aged 25-34 and those thirty years old than them is among the largest in the world in terms of both second and third-level qualifications.

In particular, Irish women in the youngest age bracket are better educated that those even ten years older than them: the gap in the number of women aged 25-34 who hold third-level qualifications, and those aged 35-44 with similar degrees, was the seventh-highest of the countries surveyed.

Ireland also ranks among the countries with the highest completion rates of secondary education, and is one of only three countries (the others being China and South Korea) with little or no gender gap among second-level graduates.

The report draws particular attention to the higher-than-average educational performance of immigrants to Ireland – over half of whom are in the top quarter of educational achievers. Immigrants make up almost 20 per cent of the top quarter of Ireland’s students, it said.

Ireland is also unusual in that there is very little difference in voting rates between those with and without a third-level qualification, at either end of the age scale. Only Greece, where lesser-educated voters were actually more likely to vote, had a smaller gap.

Overall, Ireland’s education spending in 2009 was 6.3 per cent of its GDP in 2008, just above the OECD average, while the average teachers’ wage was higher than the OECD average in that year – though this has been reduced since then as a result of government spending cutbacks.

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