The price of an education Education
Modest budget changes would have a big impact on access
There is never enough money to go around at Budget time and those who shout loudest are usually found at the top of the queue. It is in that context that the educational needs of children in primary and secondary schools should be considered. Many families experience financial difficulties as ‘back to school’ time approaches. While early education is technically ‘free’ in this State, the reality is very different. Money for books, classroom resources and stationery has to be found, along with footwear and uniform costs. Then there are the ‘voluntary’ school contributions. For low-income families, this is a particularly stressful time.
The introduction of free secondary education, 50 years ago, followed by the removal of third level fees in more recent times, marked dramatic changes in the evolution of this society. Where fewer than seven per cent of young people went to university in the 1960s, third level participation now exceeds 50 per cent. In that regard, an educated workforce has been a key driver of economic development and rising standards of living. Access to education remains a major problem, however, and there is a stark divide between participation rates involving deprived and better-off communities.
That is why a survey conducted by the children’s charity Barnardos is so important. It found the average cost of sending a child to primary school amounted to €215, when special allowances for poorer families were taken into account. This rose to €525 at secondary level. These educational hurdles were raised following the recession when footwear and uniform allowances were cut by €75 and €55.
The most effective antidote to deprivation and anti social behaviour is employment And education offers the clearest path to that objective. Barnardos’s budgetary request is modest. The Government is urged to restore uniform and footwear allowances to their 2010 levels at a cost of €14m. In addition, ministers are asked to make primary education really free over a three-year period by funding the cost of books and other items, starting with a €20m investment.
In budgetary terms, those are very small amounts of money. But their potential for creating a more caring and equal society is considerable.
Courtesy: By https://www.irishtimes.com, Source link