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ICT literacy among teachers needs to be improved – Jobs Committee report

There is a need to boost the level of ICT-literacy among teachers if Ireland is to prepare a workforce with relevant skills for a knowledge economy, according to a new report A review of the ICT skills demand in Ireland from the Committee on Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation. There is a significant gap between the ICT skills which are taught in our schools and those that are required to take up job opportunities in the technology sector, the report found. 

Report author and Committee member, Senator Deirdre Clune, said:
 “Only 25% of post-primary teachers rated themselves as having ‘intermediate’ or ‘advanced’ IT skills according to a 2008 inspectorate report. It will be impossible to further the development of computing within schools unless we have teachers who are capable of showing their students how to engage with the creative use of ICT.” 

Inadequate resources and broadband in schools are also making the implementation of ICT strategies more difficult, the report said. 

The Committee notes the decision to include the option of studying short courses in computer programming as part of a new curriculum to replace the Junior Cert at schools. However, its report recommends making programming and/or computer science as much a part of the curriculum as French or German. 

“Our students must have the opportunity to learn the global languages of programming such as Java and C++. There are already transition year programming modules on stream including the NCCA-approved Lero programme, Gem Pool’s module and Coder Dojo. However, these efforts need to be supported and supervised.  The aim should be to create a single compulsory transition year programming module with uniform implementation. Yet, we must not rest there. A one-off module for transition year is not sufficient to create the swell of ICT literacy which is needed. At present, there is no stand-alone computer science subject at either Junior or Senior Cycle. It is imperative that alongside the integration of ICT into other subjects, the option of taking computer programming as an exam subject is available to students.” 

The report found that the European Computer Driver’s License, the programme used by 54% of schools in terms of having ICT on the curriculum, does not offer any significant insight into the creative use of ICT equipment. 

A high-level of proficiency in mathematics is an essential part of technology courses, according to the report. While the increase in students taking higher level maths is a very positive step, it is also important to monitor the uptake of higher level maths to ensure that the increased numbers taking the exam and the increase in those securing honours grades this year is sustained. In tandem with this, the new Project Mathscurriculum should also be closely monitored to ensure it is delivering on its goals and that students are leaving school with the requisite problem solving skills, it said 

The importance of creating an accreditation system for ICT professionals was also highlighted. 

“The benefits of creating an accreditation system with in the Irish technology sector include providing greater clarity for those who wish to pursue careers within the ICT sector, assuring a standard for companies investing in Ireland and raising the standard of the entire industry,”said Senator Clune. 

Among the report’s other findings and recommendations are: 

· Alternative progression routes for individuals of ICT/Engineering course who do not progress from first to second year of their course needs to be examined. It is fundamentally important to offer supports to students who are experiencing difficulties at an early stage in first year and either bring them up to the standards expected to progress to second year or else offer them alternative options, perhaps at sub-degree/technician level. This represents a far more positive scenario then students dropping out of courses completely. 
· There is a need to boost the level of ICT-literacy among teachers. Only 25% of post-primary teachers rated themselves as having ‘intermediate’ or ‘advanced’ IT skills according to a 2008 inspectorate report.
· There continues to be a need to attract highly skilled technology workers from abroad. The development of a Technology Visa for IT professionals would enable such workers to come and fill the temporary skills shortage in Ireland.
· There is an information gap in relation to careers in the technology sector. We need to ensure that the opportunities available within the sector are being communicated effectively to schools, students, teachers and parents.
· A significant issue for the technology sector is the gender imbalance within third-level technology courses. There is a high demand for female ICT graduates.  Multinational companies like to recruit from mixed gender teams.  These opportunities must be made known to female students at second level and the issue must be dealt with to encourage investment in Ireland by technology companies.
· While graduate conversion courses provide an excellent opportunity to fill some of the ICT vacancies in the short term, there is a risk of gap in quality with so many programmes established at such speed and it is essential that these programmes are reviewed on a continual basis.

Read the report here:

Senator Deirdre Clune talks about report’s findings:

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