When examining the uneducated and anti-intellectual nature of Ireland and Western societies, the main cause, as well as telescreen entertainment saturation, is mass education. Such is the opposite of actual education, and the deleterious effect of which was foretold by Coleridge, Nietzsche and others, who warned that such would lead to the degradation of culture. 

This degradation happens because only a minority of people are able to engage in advanced learning. Attempts to engage more than this number in advanced learning, not merely does not result in a wider dispersal of education, but rather to a degradation which is then the standard to which the most able are subject.

In Ireland the degradation began with the introduction of ‘free’ secondary education in the 1960s. While this policy helped children from poor backgrounds, it should have only applied to the most academic upper quartile of children. From the early 1970s came ‘comprehensivisation’, the policy of merging the technical schools with the then de facto academic secondary schools. This policy abolished secondary technical education, and given the pseudo-academic nature of comprehensive schools, also abolished public secondary academic education. 

There then followed the policy of promoting all children to stay in secondary schools until the Leaving Cert; this extended the degradation to the entirety of second-level. This happens because if a school has a predominantly non-academic pupil cohort, then then it will have a predominantly non-academic nature and purpose; as will the syllabi and State exams. For a school and a syllabus to have an academic nature, the school has to have an entirely academic pupil cohort.

Most public secondary schools have little or no extra-curricular academic activities; everything ‘academic’ devolves into the exam process, with these exams themselves being degraded and worthless. In language subjects, the fail-proofing of the syllabus for the supposed benefit of the non-academic cohort has brought about a situation where Ireland has the lowest second language learning rate in the EU. Compulsion of subjects like Irish and Mathematics for State exams in a mass education system leads to the political requirement for such fail-proofing.

A subsequent policy has been to increase the numbers of students attending third-level. There is no academic or economic benefit for non-academic people to attend tertiary education. This increase entails subjects that are attended in other countries in second-level schools, subjects that used to be learned through on-the-job training, pseudo-social sciences, and subjects having low entry requirements. 

The economic value of tertiary education follows the academic value. High-grade science subjects skill students for valuable employment, while high-grade humanities subjects signify that the student is generally educated. Recent decades have seen the development of new non-academic subjects to serve the increasing non-academic cohort. These include ‘science’ subjects as Sports Science, and ‘humanities’ subjects such as various grievance studies. These new subjects have no academic or economic value, in contrast to long-standing subjects such as medicine or classics.

The current expenditure on tertiary education is based on quantity rather than quality, whereby money is spent widely and thinly, on mostly non-academic students. A reduction in numbers to a quarter or less of an annual cohort would see a large increase in expenditure per student and/or the abolition of the student charge, and an increase in the grant. 

If there were to be introduced an income-based loan system based on these numbers of students, it would be entirely repaid as all graduates would attain professional employment. An income-related loan system could see the State pay for the course up front, and for the student to repay at a rate of 9% of income over and above €25,000 per annum. In order for the State to avoid having unpaid liabilities, the tertiary institution would pay the remainder. 

For example, if the State paid €36,000 for a four-year course, it would expect to receive €818 per annum from the student and/or institution over the student’s working life. If the graduate earned under €25,000 per annum, the college would pay the entire €818.18 in that year; if the graduate earned €30,000, the graduate would repay €450.45, and the college €367.73; if the graduate earned more than €34,081, they would repay the entire €818.18 loan. Under this system, there would be well-funded courses, no upfront costs, income-related repayment, and no liability for the State.

There has been a drift towards devaluation for decades, with many non-academic persons now having attained a degree before they seek entry-level employment, whereas their equivalents in previous generations would have entered such employment in their early to middle teenage years. What is needed is a revaluation, whereby the technical subjects that are now studied in the Institutes of Technology would be studied during second-level education, parallel to, rather than after the Leaving Cert. The entry requirements for all tertiary subjects should be raised to only accept the most academic quarter of students; this would bring about a tertiary sector consisting of academic students studying academic subjects.

Posted by Seaghán Breathnach

One Comment

  1. The University of Dublin, Trinity College male : female ratio rose from 1/3 of undergraduates being female to 2/3 in the past 25 years with a concomitant increase in undergraduate student numbers. In the same time, the status of the university, as measured by world university rankings, plummeted from thirty-something to one hundred and thirty=something.

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