Ireland vs. EU: Education

When people think about higher education, there are a few countries and universities that immediately come to mind. The United States is consistently at the top of the world list, with the UK and Germany within the top 5. Schools such as MIT in the U.S. and Cambridge in the UK are two of the best and most popular universities in the world. However, Ireland doesn’t seem to fall too far behind some of these top countries. Ireland in some instances comes on top of the U.S. in relation to elementary education. There are many different studies that show different results. Yet throughout most there are some consistencies in how Ireland and the EU is ranked.

Based off of “The World University Rankings” for 2020, the UK has 8 of the top 10 universities in Europe. Ireland’s Trinity College is the top ranked Irish school, yet it doesn’t come in until 76th on the list. When looking at the population if Ireland, the statistics tell a different story. The population with at least upper secondary education in Ireland is well above the EU average of 85%. The Department of Education and skills in Ireland found that 92% of people aged 25-34 have at least upper secondary education. They also concluded that within this same age group, 53% have attended higher education, compared to the EU average of 44%. Throughout all age groups Ireland consistently has a higher percentage of people enrolled in school.

In order to determine the level of secondary education a country is providing, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) administers a Program for International Student Assessment (PISA). This is a test that determines the level of reading, math and science skills in kids ages 15-16. Based on the data collected, Ireland for mathematics ranked 8th in the EU. They were also ranked 5th in science and scored 2nd in English, with only Finland scoring higher. Over all, Ireland ranked 6th in the EU, after averaging out all the scores from the three different fields. Finland scored the highest, with Estonia, Poland, Netherlands, and Germany taking up the top 5 spots.

The OECD also administered the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) to test some of the same skills in adults rather than teenagers. The PIAAC tested adults on their ability to read and write, and their ability to work through mathematical functions. Participants of the test are given a score 0-5 with 5 being the highest level of competency. For Literacy, Ireland had the 8th highest percentage of people who received a 0 or 1 and 11th highest who received a 4 or 5. In terms of numeracy competency, Ireland was the 6th highest country to score a 0 or 1, and the 16th highest to score a 4 or 5. The assessment also tested participants computing skills, and Ireland ranked 12th overall with just over 50% of the participants scoring moderate or good computer skills.

Within the EU, Ireland for the most part remains at the middle of the pack in terms of education. There’s a higher rate of participants, yet it seems the level of education needs some improvement. Adoption of new learning techniques might be the way of the future for Ireland. Places such as Finland have instituted a new way of learning. In Finland, there are no standardized testing, years of schooling are based on skill level rather than age and learning is based more on interest rather than cookie cutter curriculum. It seems that many countries are now trying to adopt some of these methods as a new era of education begins. Will Ireland be next?

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