October 9, 2003

Parents and the Media act as constraints on educational change, OECD expert tells Dublin conference

Press Release 9 October 2003

Parents and the media often act as strong constraints on educational innovation and change, a leading international expert on future trends in education has told a conference in Malahide, County Dublin.

Mr David Istance of the OECD’s Centre for Educational Research and Innovation in Paris told the inaugural conference of the Standing Conference on Teacher Education, North and South, that surveys across all OECD countries show that rather than believe in their own high opinion of their children’s schooling, parents often report that the school system in general suffers from serious flaws. This tends to act as a pressure against necessary change.

Mr Istance said the huge contemporary interest in education, combined with the media’s tendency to highlight bad news in their educational coverage, also contributed to a climate of concern and worry among the public at large.

He said there was a large gap between the desire of people in education to move towards new forms of schooling and the fact that the great majority were still working through traditional, overly bureaucratic models. This meant that innovative future options like converting schools into centres of wide-ranging community learning activities or innovative ‘focussed learning organisations’ with porous classroom walls and widespread use of ICT were not being properly addressed.

Mr Istance is the leader of the OECD’s ‘Schooling for Tomorrow’ project, which has developed a set of schooling scenarios for the next 15-20 years. He is also currently working on a major international study of the role of teachers in 25 countries, including Ireland, with in depth analyses of 10 countries’ teacher policies. This study, which is due for publication late next year or early in 2005, will examine such elements as teacher shortages, salaries, evaluation and the structure of teacher careers.

Professor John Coolahan of NUI Maynooth told the conference that in the past two years EU policy statements were for the first time highlighting the need to support teachers and teacher trainers as they responded to the demanding challenges of the knowledge society and lifelong learning. Successful government action to equip teachers to tackle these challenges was “crucial for the well-being of future society,” he said.

The conference in Malahide (9-10 October) assembles 110 people involved in teacher education on the island of Ireland to discuss ‘Challenges to Teacher Education and Research, North and South’. It has been organised by the Standing Conference on Teacher Education, North and South (SCoTENS), a new umbrella body which has brought together the 27 teacher education agencies – colleges of education, universities and others – on the island to discuss and research matters of mutual interest. The Centre for Cross Border Studies in Armagh acts as SCoTENS’ secretariat.

Further information from:

Andy Pollak, head of secretariat, Standing Conference on Teacher Education, North and South, c/o Centre for Cross Border Studies, 39 Abbey Street, Armagh BT61 7EB
Tel. 028-3751-1550 Fax 028-3751-1721
(048 from the Republic of Ireland)
Mobile 0771-5042122
(0044-771-5042122 from the Republic of Ireland)
E-mail a.pollak@qub.ac.uk

David Istance
c/o Grand Hotel, Malahide, Co Dublin (from 12 midday Thursday 9th onwards)
Tel. (01) 845-0000

Standing Conference on Teacher Education, North and South (SCoTENS) website: