[Sinn Fein]

30th March 2003

Sinn Fein Ard Fheis 2003

Frances McCole speaking during the education debate

Our education policy document is entitled 'Educate that you may be Free' - the inspiring words of Thomas Davis.

When you turn the pages of this education policy document, you will be left in no doubt that this is a Sinn Fein document.

It sets out a radically alternative vision of what education could mean in Ireland.

The failures we have lived with so far include:

Educate that you may find your way to the boat and get a job abroad

Educate that you may be a useful, if underpaid, employee to the free market economy

Educate that you may fit into the system, and not be one of those left behind

And more recently:

Educate, but not so much that you may ask difficult questions of those who buy your votes with promises and sell you out as soon as the polls close. Health cuts, public housing, Shannon∑

This education system is embedded in the capitalist economic system.

It is the essential mechanism for reproducing inequality and maintaining the status quo.

The education system serves the interests of capitalism. Providing a source of cheap training for future staff.

If you think this is overstating the case consider the enthusiasm for private investors to get into schools through PFI.

Consider that in the US some school basketball courts are sponsored and branded by Nike. McDonalds franchises operate within school premises, and Coke and Pepsi battle it out for exclusive rights for their vending machines. It's the logical, if insipid progression of free market, globalised capitalist economics.

So what do you get for your money in Ireland today?

In 2003, as a pupil you are probably still spending your school days with too many class mates, a stressed, perhaps qualified teacher, in buildings that range from cramped to dilapidated.

As a parent your most likely involvement within the school gates will be at fundraisers, buying or selling home made jam, rarely if ever getting involved in the detail of your child's education or development.

As the parent of a child with special needs, you are more likely to spend your time talking to TDs, MPs and solicitors than teachers.

As teachers, we may rage against, and weary of, the system that fails us all, taking solace in small triumphs.

Of course it doesn't have to be like this. There is a better alternative. Education could have a new agenda, within a new Ireland.

This policy document sets out Sinn Fein's vision for making education a mechanism for personal, community and social development.

We believe education is a life long endeavour, through which each of us learns to become our true selves. To be, and be free.

We advocate an education system that supports and enhances that endeavour,

An inclusive system, that serves all of the people, funded by a socialist economic system that serves all of the people, within a democracy that represents and serves all of the people.

We believe only a 32 county democratic socialist republic can serve us all.

Cuige Atha Cliath call on delegates to support this policy document, support this motion,

Go raibh maith agaibh.

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