Fianna Fáil Leader Micheál Martin has criticised Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn for continually talking down our education system and portraying it as second rate.
Deputy Martin commented, “I can’t stand by and listen to Minister Quinn talk down our education system when it is blatantly wrong, irresponsible and politically motivated. When Minister Quinn describes as “manure” the idea that we have one of the best education systems in the world, he is insulting every teacher in the country and jeopardising future FDI investments. Does the Minister ever stop and think what a CEO of a major multinational might think when she looks at Ireland and sees our own Minister for Education deriding our education  system? Not only is the Minister blatantly wrong but he is undermining one of the central planks of the country’s job creation strategy.
“If we had a second rate education system, would we be the number one country in the world for jobs created by Foreign Direct Investment? Would we have 240,000 direct and indirect FDI supported jobs?  Would we have eight of the top 10 high-tech and pharmaceutical firms and 15 of the top 20 medical devices firms based here? Would we have 30,000 people working in financial services, a sector that is expected to add 10,000 jobs over the next five years? These are all significant achievements over the past 14 years.  They are achievements that our education system can be proud of and take credit for.
“Minister Quinn’s derision for Irish education is self-serving and wrong.  By every objective standard, the Irish labour force is among the best educated in the world; the share of population aged 25-34 with a third level qualification is higher than in the US or the UK, and is above the OECD average. We were ranked 4th in the world in terms of skilled labour and 6th for labour productivity by the IMD World Competitiveness Yearbook 2010.  These are all facts that the Minister is now choosing to ignore. While our education system isn’t perfect and it is clear we need to address funding problems at third level and skills shortages in the area of ICT and languages, this does not justify the contempt that Minister Quinn continues to display.
“We are hugely proud of our education system and what it has achieved. It has been the backbone of job creation in this country and continues to be a major attraction to foreign multinationals looking to invest in Ireland. Over the past number of months, we have seen job announcements from likes of Paypal, Accenture, Mastercard and Twitter.  These join the likes of Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Dell, Intel, AOL and HP who all continue to be committed to Ireland.
“It is easy to see why a Minister focussed solely on his personal political reputation would choose to say our system is broken and that he’s the man to fix it.  But education is too important to be treated in this way.  It is also wrong and unfair on everyone working in a system that has achieved so much and continues to achieve.”