Recent figures revealed in the national media in relation to third level institutes have revealed an unwelcome development: an increasing level of drop-out rates.
We believe that this worrying trend may be the end result of a long-standing issue which stems from secondary school level: a lack of appropriate career guidance.
While some schools unquestionably have excellent career guidance, we cannot state that this is uniformly the case across all post-primary schools.
During the seven-plus years of austerity, as was the case across all government offices, the Department of Education has endured its share of cutbacks since 2007/08, with short-term contracts and freelance staffing replacing permanent employment in many instances.
And we would contend that there has been a consequence to this when it comes to the level and quality of career guidance and the extent of advice which Fifth and Sixth Year students have been receiving since the recession took grip.
Are our students better prepared now than their predecessors were at the turn of the century when it comes to making an informed choice about their third level course? It’s a question we believe one would struggle to answer positively in an overall, national sense.
Many young people spend large amounts of time online – too much – and believe that they can get all the information they need from such sources. But that’s not the answer.
Face to face guidance in the classroom, be it directly from teachers or from invited speakers drawn from a range of industries and trades, have reservoirs of experience, and they ought to be tapped into more than they are.
This is an issue which may become lost amidst the mass of pre-election promises, but the government elected by the 32nd Dáil ought to research this matter closely and take considered, as opposed to kneejerk action.
This also ties into the debate on the importance of apprenticeships and the promotion of trades, since third level education, whether parents like to acknowledge this or not, is not for everyone.
Students leaving courses represents a huge waste of both time and resources, and a more comprehensive mechanism should be established which allows students to change courses and re-select.
The prospect of a potential outlay of between €6,000 and €7,000 to change a course is enough to put parents off the idea of any such switch. It’s also worth bearing in mind that another legacy of the Troika’s time here is the €3000 registration rate now facing any Leaving Cert graduate who wishes to move into third level education.
Enhanced pre-third level awareness of the reality of degree programmes, be they in engineering or computer technology for example, would surely lend to more informed decision making by our 17 to 19-year-olds.
Transition Year ought to be availed of in a more comprehsive manner when it comes to informing and educating students about their potential career choices.
As for mature students, a bolstering of Local Employment Services and greater supports for enterprise supports such as the Fumbally Exchange, Dunhill Ecopark and Piltown’s Enterprise Centre, would encourage a greater emphasis on entrepreneurship and business start-ups.
We noted with interest last week when the Union of Students in Ireland announced that 80,000 students have registered to vote inside the past two years, a sizeable bloc in a countr5y of our size.
It would be encouraging to see political parties address this in a positive manner over the next month or so, yet there’s no evidence yet that any are too enthused by a matter affecting those not yet in the PAYE sector.
Perhaps our young students aren’t the only ones who require greater levels of guidance.