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A Different View

Academic ability shouldn’t be the only measure of success

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There was a time in this country not so long ago that only the privileged few extended their education beyond the old Primary Cert; then the Inter Cert became a commendable achievement and finally the Leaving lived up to its name.

But now we’ve moved into a world where academic appears to be the only option and the formal learning curve can comfortably be stretched out into your late twenties.

Because we’ve just moved the bar up another level; now a primary degree is just the new Leaving Cert and a Masters is almost a given – and academia appears to be the only option.

Unless someone pays heed to the advice offered recently by the real Taoiseach, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who revealed her blueprint for solving youth unemployment.

She wants to promote the merits of Germany’s dual system of schooling and work experience – a mix of classroom learning and on-the-shop-floor work experience – as the best way forward at a time when almost six million under-25s in Europe are out of work. What she’s actually talking about are apprenticeships – not just as we know them in terms of mechanics or plumbers, but in terms of all careers in that you can learn more in a hands-on environment as you can in the lecture hall.

But we are pre-occupied with third level when clearly that no more suits everyone now than it did a generation ago.

Of course the reality is that a job in the civil service is no longer an option and there’s no need for apprentices when they are thousands of skilled tradesmen already out of work – but that doesn’t mean we should shove all of our young people into university because we can’t think of anything else for them to do.

Merkel quite rightly points out that we shouldn’t see academic success as the only measure – and the tens of thousands of Irish graduates who are either out of work or living in foreign parts are testimony to a one-track system here.

Germany, in contrast, has halved its youth unemployment since 2005 and they are now in a position to offer a place on a dual system training programme to every young person who wants one.

And that has resulted in a whole generation of skilled workers and master craftsmen taking their rightful place in German society, at the heart of an economy which hardly seems to have suffered because everyone doesn’t go to university.

In contrast here, we have thousands of twentysomethings with nothing more than writer’s cramp to show for sending out endless job applications; inevitable letters of rejections because they are overqualified for the jobs they would be more than willing to take.

It is not just the Government that’s at fault for this – the approach at second-level has become so blinkered that further education is the only serious option.

Everything is geared towards the points race so that you get your first choice on the CAO form; a sheet of paper with your exam results is the only measure of your success or failure for the first 18 years of your life.

But there’s no vision higher up the scale either; the Government came up with a JobBridge programme as a sort of quasi-internship, but in reality that’s just a way of massaging the unemployment figures.

We’ve had huge success in attracting hi-tech multi-nationals here on the back of our graduate numbers, but we’ve also become so fixated with this as the only measure of industrial success that we’ve dumped every other option.

The German idea is a more rounded approach to job creation as well as an acknowledgement that there is more than one measure of ability.

It is, of course, fantastic to live in a city and county with two top-class third-level facilities in NUIG and GMIT and we can never underestimate the value of having such easy access to academia on our doorstep. But, with 440,000 on the dole, clearly something else is also needed – and given that the German economy is the one we’ve already pinned all our hopes on, if they’ve found something that works, it at least demands closer analysis.

Because there’s more than one sort of third-level education – and perhaps it’s time we invested a little more as well in the university of life.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Sentinel.

Connacht Tribune

One person’s useless tat is another’s stuff of dreams

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Dave O'Connell

A Different View with Dave O’Connell

The world is divided into two kinds of people; those who like to live in a world of clean, white lines and minimal clutter – and those of us who just love accumulating stuff.

Stuff covers a multitude, which – depending on your perspective – might be alternatively defined as either the souvenirs or detritus of your life.

Books, match programmes, concert ticket stubs, seashells, Dinky cars, beer mats…it’s all stuff that one person wants to treasure and the other, invariably, wants to throw straight out in the bin.

And it’s at the core of a fair percentage of domestic differences too – ‘it’s my stuff’; ‘don’t move my stuff’; ‘your stuff is taking over the house’ – because, for every hoarder, there’s an aspiring Marie Kondo who wants to take minimalism to new heights.

Attics are invariably full of stuff that hasn’t seen the light of day in years; old cardboard boxes of childhood toys, suitcases packed with dusty photo albums, boxes of video cassettes for which there is no longer a VCR; clothes that you didn’t want but also didn’t want to throw out – and it’s only a matter of time before they’re back in fashion and you’ll have shed the three stone it would take to close the zipper.

Overall, it’s the kind of stuff that you hoped you’d get back to and wallow in nostalgia, years after you consigned it to the darkest recesses of the eaves.

Those who abhor clutter have a different approach, working on the basis that – if you have stuff stored in a box and you don’t open that box for three years – you don’t need that stuff anymore.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Sense of belonging that brings it all back home

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Dave O'Connell

A Different View with Dave O’Connell

It was a chat with a ‘Galwegian in exile’ that brought it all home to me; although now domiciled in the capital for more years than he’d lived in the west, he was delighted to bring his Dublin-born daughter to the All-Ireland Football Final wearing her maroon jersey.

To be honest, she’d probably have gone to Croke Park dressed as Elsa from Frozen because it was just a day out – but Daddy couldn’t have been prouder if his eleven-year-old came on for Damien Comer with five minutes to go.

The sense of place is understandable when it comes to ourselves as born-and-bred Galwegians, because while you can change where you live as often as you like, even if you wanted to, you can never change where you’re from.

But trying to impose your own geographical heritage on the next generation is alternatively seen as understandable and a little selfish at the same time.

It’s a topic for discussion in our own house on occasion because while the two lads grew up in Galway, they were in fact born in Dublin – and if they want to pull my chain, all they have to do is remind of that fact.

My reply is a tired and stock one, to the effect that although Jesus was born in a stable, nobody ever suggested that made him a horse.

The more serious point is that you are shaped by your formative years rather than the maternity hospital of your arrival – and those years were spent in Galway.

Galway is their point of reference for sport and music and school friends and nights out and pubs and college – and almost everything else that really matters.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

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Connacht Tribune

Gaeltacht days – and a rite of passage to remember forever

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Dave O'Connell

A Different View with Dave O’Connell

A scholarship to Irish College wasn’t so much a backhanded compliment as an inverted acknowledgement of your grasp of the language – in other words you got one because you were bordering on useless, or to put it more diplomatically you’d benefit more than the rest from a couple of weeks of immersion in your native tongue.

Only it then transpired that the experience of three weeks in the Gaeltacht taught you that going there had a small bit to do with learning Irish for sure – but a whole lot to do with growing up, or at least beginning that blossoming process.

And you would do all this in an atmosphere as alien to your small teenage self as free elections are to the people of Russia; céilís, cispheil, comhra agus craic – as well as an Irish language version of the Streets of London written and taught to us by Art Ó Dufaigh that still lives in the memory bank, even longer than Ralph McTell’s original.

The truth, when you get there, is the realisation that three weeks in the Gaeltacht is a little like a week at the Galway Races or the Rose of Tralee; just as the horses or the Roses are ostensibly the reason for going, they’re really just the hook to get you there.

And so it is that you go to the Gaeltacht to learn the language but you come home having learned so much more.

My Gaeltacht summer was at the tail end of the seventies with three weeks in Beal a’ Dangan and céilís in Nestor’s Hall, brought there in a bus by a young man called Máirtín Tom Sheáinín who would go on to enjoy a stellar career as a broadcaster – particularly presenting Comhrá – but was back then a knacky driver with a dream, traversing windy roads in pitch darkness.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

 

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