The number of students choosing to enroll in postgraduate courses in second-level teaching is expected to continue to decline into the next academic year.
With the official application deadline having already passed, the National University of Ireland (NUI), Ireland’s leading supplier of second-level teaching graduates, has only received around 600 applications for its two-year master’s program. This is a continuation of recent trends which has seen the number of applicants fall dramatically from 2,821 in 2011 to only 1,068 in 2016. In response to the low demand for places this year, NUI plans to continue accepting applications for the program past the official deadline.
This evening, Fianna Fáil will be tabling Private Members Bill, in the aim that the party is to ask the Dáil to accept that “a real crisis exists” with the lack of second-level applications, according to The Journal. Fianna Fail education spokesman, Thomas Byrne, said that the crisis is “resulting in a recruitment and retention crisis for teachers,” with Byrne admitting the pay gap between recent graduates and more experienced educators is one of the reasons why students are choosing not to pursue a postgraduate degree in education. The Teacher’s Union of Ireland (TUI) has taken an active role in recent years in petitioning for a solution to the inequality of pay for teachers who qualified in the years after 2011.
However, an agreement on how to address pay gap has yet to be reached. In September of 2017 the TUI voted to reject the public service pay deal. A statement since released by the TUI states it made this decision as the proposed plan “would effectively copper-fasten a system of pay inequality for its three-year duration”.
The TUI’s rejection of the public service pay deal follows earlier debates between the Association of Secondary Teachers of Ireland (ASTI) and the Department of Education, which led to over 400 secondary schools being forced to close as teachers went on strike. Minister for Education and Skills, Richard Burton, stated at the time that he was “disappointed” that negotiations fell through and that “ASTI have effectively decided to close hundreds of schools indefinitely, as a result of a dispute which essentially relates to one hour a week of additional duties”.