[Sinn Fein]

23rd November 2002

Crowe calls for revolution in Education

Sinn Fein Spokesperson on Science and Education Deputy Seán Crowe speaking at a party conference on education which is taking place in the Ormonde Hotel in Kilkenny today called for a revolution in Education. Deputy Crowe said:

Sinn Fein is not about getting into power. It is about getting into power and using that power to radically transform Irish society from the roots up. Every other political party in the state believes the system is flawed but, that with a little tinkering, a few minor adjustments, it will work fine. In other words they believe the problem isn't the system, it is the way it is being implemented. We believe that the problem is not that the system is not working properly. It's working fine. For better or worse the last few years of economic boom saw the capitalist system working perfectly.

It's just not the right system. It's not the right system for the just governance of society, for the equal distribution of wealth and for the building of an Ireland of equals. We need to open up people to new ideas, new ways of thinking. But before we can do this, before we can have a revolution in Ireland we need a revolution in education.

During a debate in Leinster House recently, the Minister for Education told the House that `Higher education benefits the individual far more than society.' How he can honestly believe that and hold a brief for education is beyond me. Society benefits from an educated citizenry. Education gives people confidence, it plays a key role in personal development, in broadening the horizons of students. Education has a measurable impact in reducing poverty, crime, sickness, disease, ignorance, hatred, prejudice and in improving involvement of citizens in community work and in politics. It opens minds, stimulates debate and new ideas, it opens up the world for those fortunate enough to benefit from it. Perhaps more than anything else, education, at all levels, benefits society.

``Education is a lifelong process, something that is only recently being recognised. As human beings we are constantly learning and adapting and it is necessary that our education system reflects that. When people think of education there is a tendency to think primarily of first, second and sometimes third level education. But education does not end when a person walks out of school, nor indeed, does it only begin when they enter it. We need to begin to focus on other forms of education, on community and adult education, on reaching out to those with learning disabilities or reading problems, on making sure the needs of the growing number of ethnic minorities in Ireland are met.

``There is an old Chinese proverb which states `If you are planning for a year, sow rice; if you are planning for a decade, plant trees; if you are planning for a lifetime, educate people.' Sinn Fein is planning for generations, and it's time to educate the people. Today, with our help, we take another step forward in that process.''

Education - A key to equality

A summary of an education discussion document from Sinn Fein - November 2002


Education is central to Sinn Fein s political project and the egalitarian ideals of that project.

While Ireland s education systems have in the past borne some of the responsibility for reproducing inequality, Sinn Fein believes an Irish education system can be an essential instrument for the building of an Ireland of equals.

Equality of opportunity, access and provision, is however a basic entitlement. The ability for learners to achieve their full potential by having access to those levels of curriculum, those institutions and that type of teaching and learning best fitted to deliver such success is a fundamental right. Individuals should be able to do so at any age and any stage of their lives. Such provision calls for adequate and sustained investment in our richest resource - our people.    

Such provision necessitates clear, key objectives.

Sinn Fein will support and work for an education system that will:-

These Key Objectives and the broad principles that underlie them must govern priorities, strategies and structures in education. They can only be achieved through a significant and sustained investment in education.


Schools as Learning Organisations in a Learning Neighbourhood

Sinn Fein will support and work for, the development of an education system that is characterised and governed by the principles of organisational learning. Such a system would comprise of meaningful and effective partnerships between local education providers and the community with whom they work in the development, maintenance and ongoing improvement of 'Learning Neighbourhoods'

Tackling Disadvantage

Sinn Fein will support and work for an all-Ireland approach to identifying, targeting and redressing disadvantage in education. In particular Sinn Fein will advocate significantly increased funding for education in areas of greatest disadvantage, and focused intervention at the earliest possible stage.

The Irish language

Sinn Fein will support and work for increased availability and better resourcing of Irish-medium education and for significantly strengthened recognition of the essential place of the Irish language in an Irish education system.

Towards an education system for all of Ireland

Sinn Fein will support and work for an all-Ireland education system that promotes a self-confident, secure identity in a society based on equality and social justice - a society open to and receptive to the world. Sinn Fein believes that the system of education is central to that transformation of society required to realise our goals.

To that end, Sinn Fein will campaign for all-Ireland implementation of the Right to Education from Early Years to 18, and harmonisation of the two systems based on principles of equality and inclusion. Such harmonisation necessitates increased sharing of resources and expertise. It also requires significantly greater ease of contact and mobility between and among institutions, partners and personnel involved in education.

Early Years

Universally available, publicly funded early childhood education with appropriate resources to facilitate on-site work with parents and accommodate the earliest and most effective detection of Special Educational Needs.

Primary Level

Primary schools that are centred in the community, reflective of the community, that share information and expertise with local nursery schools and post-primary schools, and have the most generous possible pupil-teacher ratio to facilitate development and learning at this crucial stage.

Post primary level

All-ability 11-18 comprehensive schools with substantially increased support for pupils and teachers in those schools where the measured social and educational need of the school population is relatively high, with adequate resources to encourage team work, the sharing of information and experience, greater collaboration within and between post-primary schools, and between them, their feeder primary schools and local third level institutions.

Third level/Further and Higher Education

Education and training to be an entitlement for all, made possible by adequate grant-aid and support mechanisms, and the provision of focussed access programmes for schools that currently have a low take up of third level places.

Adult and Community Education

An all-Ireland adult literacy campaign with a clear objective of reducing adult functional illiteracy to under 10% within four years, and a system of adult and community education that reflects and meets the diverse needs and interests of adult learners.

Youth Provision

Promotion of a young person centred approach and a youth service that can genuinely engage all young people through innovative and diverse programmes of informal learning.

Irish Language / Irish Medium

Improved provision of naíscoileanna (naíonrá) where there is demand, with viability criteria that realistically reflect the needs of the local community.


The development of a broad and balanced curriculum which addresses the needs of the whole child, recognises the diversity of learning abilities and intelligences among young people, and develops the learners interest in and enthusiasm for, learning about and engaging with the world around them.

Special Needs Education

Appropriate provision of supports within mainstream classrooms for children with Learning Disability, together with a joint departmental and governmental approach to the early detection and remediation of special educational needs

Tackling Disadvantage

The implementation of integrated responses to the needs of students who are educationally disadvantaged and at risk of under-achievement in school. Such an implementation to be based on a joined up approach by schools, parents, local community organisations and agencies and the statutory sector. In particular: proper counselling facilities for pupils and non-managerial process support for the teachers in schools where the social and educational need of the school population is relatively high


An enhanced status for teachers, and in particular significant improvement in pay, terms and conditions which reflect the experience, professionalism and dedication of the profession. Increased funding for continuous professional development opportunities that make optimal use of existing expertise within the teaching profession

Systemic and Organisational Issues

The development of organisational and managerial practices which promote the principles of learning organisations within learning neighbourhoods.

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