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Why Ireland indeed.

Ireland's education is administered through its Department of Education and Science. Their government views education as a fundamental right under their constitution. They invested money over a period of time and now have one of the world's highest education participation rates. Around 60% of Irish students go on to higher education. In the US we can't even get 60% to graduate from high school in our urban school districts.

This is an educational system that values encouraging students to continue their education even into adulthood. 35% of young Irish graduates get degrees in science technology disciplines. They support research in bioengineering, bioinformatics and stem-cell research. They have made progress in cancer research and investigative work in the initiating processes for arthritis.

In 1987 Ireland was Europe's worst performing economy. The unemployment rate was 17% and the government debt was 112% of GDP. By 2003 it was Europe's best performing economy and one of the ten riches countries in the world with an unemployment rate of 4% and government debt at 33% of GDP.

One of the contributing factors for this huge turnaround was the supply of scientists, engineers and business school graduates from the educational system. This pool of high skill labor attracted high-tech companies like Polaroid and Digital Equipment. Just this last June the Irish Minister for enterprise, trade and employment announced a new 30 million Euro fund to increase the high tech R&D within higher education. This is a land with only 4 million residents. In addition they have earmarked 2.7 billion Euros from now through 2008 to continue to advance Ireland's knowledge economy.

Here the Bush administration is only making it harder and more expensive for anyone not born into the 'haves' to get an education. With the recent news about rate increases for Stafford Loans the US would do well to examine Ireland's approach to education.

When I got my first degree in 1975 and my graduate degree in 1977 I owed around $4500. It was at 3% interest. I had one year grace period before I had to start paying and I had 10 years to pay it off. I think my monthly payment was less then $50.

When I went back to school in 1987 and graduated in 1990 I did it without borrowing any money because I was employed as a firefighter and had the support of my wife even though we were raising two daughters in high school at the time.

Now I earn three times what I got paid as a firefighter but I don't see that many young people today will have the same opportunity that I did.

The Information Age started in America because we had the talent and the innovation that it took to make it happen. This was largely brought about by the GI Bill and low interest government back loans. Like so many of my fellow veterans I got a college education that I probably won't have without the $435/month the GI Bill gave me.

Education here should be a goal and higher education should be considered an investment in America's future. Too bad the Bush administration doesn't see it that way.

Originally posted to duvallbuck on Tue Jul 04, 2006 at 08:15 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Great diary..... (0+ / 0-)

    and timely too.  I have been reading about Ireland's economic boom lately and other things there.  Education must come first in our country.  It's too bad the Bush administration and the GOP doesn't understand this.  If we don't soon make it our TOP priority we'll be left behind in the world's dust so to speak.

    If the people lead, the leaders will follow.

    by Mz Kleen on Tue Jul 04, 2006 at 08:18:51 AM PDT

  •  The Bush adminstration (0+ / 0-)

    sees investing in education as unneccessary so long as other countries will invest in their citizens.  They see us as being best used as a kind of feudal structure to prop them up.

    This is a dangerous direction.  Sure, right now, we can still attract educated foreigners to fill our engineering and science needs.  But how long will that continue if our living standards and quality of life deteriorates?  

  •  What is even more amazing (0+ / 0-)

    is that Ireland has not had decades of growth and wealth to accomplish this. Fifteen years ago this was a poverty stricken third-world country. The Irish are no longer emigrating and carrying their brains to other countries but are investing their education and brains here at home.
    With an administration like that of Bush, it will take more and more to get someone from here to go live in the US even with the big salaries.

    The most courageous act is still to think for yourself. Aloud. -Coco Chanel

    by Overseas on Tue Jul 04, 2006 at 08:34:20 AM PDT

    •  Come Now (0+ / 0-)

      Ireland was not a third-world country fifteen years ago, for fuck's sake (I was living there on and off at the time).

      It was one of the poorer performing economies in the EEC due to historic issues (the colonization by and subsequent break with Great Britain), which is why a massive amount of capital investment flowed in from Brussels.

      The success of the EEC model is a big part of the Celtic Tiger story too.

      •  I will guess it was (0+ / 0-)

        where you were living and how much money you were making and where you hung out. Out here in the rural areas, it was bad.

        The most courageous act is still to think for yourself. Aloud. -Coco Chanel

        by Overseas on Tue Jul 04, 2006 at 01:32:32 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Hitchhiked (0+ / 0-)

          All 'round. Sorry, Ireland hasn't been a third world country since, say, the term was invented (obviously, the Famine is another story, but that pre-dates the term).

          A tough place to make a living, yes, but not Pakistan or Bangladesh (or rural China). The rural poverty I saw in Ireland doesn't rank with the rural poverty one can find in south Texas or West Virginia today.

          It's always had tourism and a decent agricultural base. And a direct line to Boston and New York and London bartending and painting jobs (folks in the third world don't have those kinds of options). Computer plants were in Galway by the mid 1980s.

  •  EU money (0+ / 0-)

    Ireland began receiving subsidies after joining the European community in 1973. Net receipts from the EU averaged 3 percent of GDP during the period of rapid growth (1995-2000), but during the low growth period (1973-1986) they averaged 4 percent of GDP

    3-4% of the GDP, that's a lot of money.

    Link( warning, CATO-virus! )

    And Of course CATO-people will argue that Ireland is an example that they can use. Public education and strong public policies seem to have something to do with the growth..

    (EU-money was part of the deal, not the biggest part)

    Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please. Mark Twain

    by allmost liberal european on Tue Jul 04, 2006 at 08:52:57 AM PDT

  •  language skills are also (0+ / 0-)

    an important part of the (republic of) Ireland's education strength.

    I have family and friends in Ireland. I've seen 17 yr olds prepare for their final exams, and am impressed with their strong language and maths programs as well.

    From my observation, I'd have to say most students in Ireland who do well in in their studies are 2-4 years ahead of American counterparts in maths and sciences, and the top students not only have several years of study in Irish (Irish Gaelic), but a third language as well. This gives them a big advantage in such industries as tech support for other EU countries, and generally in business across the EU.

    In a country that was once so priest-ridden, the surge in bio-tech, including stem-cell research, is just one of the strengths of the new Irish economy. It couldn't have been accomplished without the long-term help of the EU, which financed infrastructure improvements and influenced many reforms in the Irish education systems.

    _'it should take no longer to vote for President than it does to check out of Toys R Us on Christmas Eve'_ - that's my meme and I'm stickin' to it.

    by NMRed on Tue Jul 04, 2006 at 09:28:55 AM PDT

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