“Where knowledge ends, speculation begins”
Sherlock Holmes (Arthur Conan Doyle)
We live in a modern age. We like to think of ourselves as modern people: open-minded, objective, reasoned and embracing of new concepts and practices. This is how Irish people like to see themselves, it’s what we are told in the media, it’s what we like to believe. We thought also that during the Celtic Tiger, we were one of fastest developing economies on the planet, that we influenced the world economy, that we had an effect on world trade. We like to think we have a first class education system, health system, infrastructure, the IT hub of Europe. We like to think a lot of things, because it is easier and nicer to believe nice things and the harsh reality can be too hard to handle. However reality has a terrible habit of dispelling myths and the myths are quickly dissipating.
We are in truth a country with a 1st world mentality but with 3rd world standards. Our “Boom” was based on ill-founded speculation. At one point we were building more houses here in Ireland (population 4.5 million) than the UK (population 65 million). Logic had been diluted by fantasy. Our Health system is one of the worst in Europe. We are NOT the IT Hub of Europe despite the presence of Google, Facebook etc – this is a taxation issue. If we did not have the lowest Corporation Tax in Europe, they would be gone overnight and this could yet happen. I am not one of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse here but I believe that only when you look at things in the cold light of day, through clear glasses and not rose tinted ones, that one can begin to address problems head-on, deal with them and improve. And this brings me to Education.
Ireland has always prided itself on its education system. As a former emigrant who had to leave Ireland to find work, I was confident of one thing in a new country; I could hold my own with anyone on an academic level because I had been through the Irish Education system. Can we say the same now? Going on current statistics, emigration is only going one way….the tide is staying out. The likelihood is that your son or daughter will have to leave Ireland to find work, to make a life. This is just a horrible fact that we have to accept. If we have the same people in power, in the same positions, doing the same things, how do ever expect things to change. It is the definition of madness – doing the same things over and over and expecting a different result. Therefore, assuming nothing changes, wouldn’t you like your child to stand the best chance possible of succeeding when they arrive on foreign shores, nervous, alone and anxious.
We live in a digital age. Our children are digital children, they’ve grown up with technology so it is reasonable to believe that they are well equipped in this regard. The reality however is far from the truth. Your child may be able to negotiate Snapchat, Facebook and Instagram on three different devices whilst at the same time watching X Factor and eating pizza but this does not mean they are IT literate. This does not mean they are technologically aware with current practices. Ireland scores very low in the world in this regard. I’ll give you an example. We are visiting schools with Cybersmarties everyday in different parts of the country. Progressive schools who want to take our system on because it is proven to influence positive behavioural change in children but they don’t have broadband and they have only five or six computers for hundreds of children. This is 2016 not 1916. In my old secondary school we had three computers in 1992 – they now have eight, twenty four years later. Meanwhile in Holland where Cybersmarties has been invited to bring our system, every child in school has a computer. There is a reason why we are not leaders in Europe – we invest in all the wrong areas. Like in an private company, it’s future is dependent on how much you invest in the next new product. Ireland’s future is dependent on how much it invests in its children.
So what do we do about it? Do we moan? Do we write blogs like I am now or do we get busy. Change only occurs through action. Cybersmarties is now working with and seeking businesses who will help us equip our schools with modern computers and work with broadband companies to bring the Irish Education system up to date. We’re not waiting for the government (if we had one) to do it, we’re not waiting for the Dept of Education to do it. We’re doing it because otherwise it wont get done. Let’s give our kids a fighting chance. I, and I am sure you do too, want Irish children to not just compete at the highest level but to win at the highest level, not just be technologically aware but to be more technologically advanced than their counterparts. Irish people are some of the most creative, entrepreneurial people on the planet if only we get out of our own way and stop letting sub-standard acceptance of mediocrity not bring us down but keep us down.